BFAR to lodge new protest against ‘illegal, unreported, and unregulated’ foreign vessels in West Philippine Sea

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The Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) is collaborating with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on new diplomatic protests against foreign vessels’ continued presence and activity in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The DA-BFAR expressed “severe concern” in a statement on Tuesday about the continued presence of foreign vessels conducting fishing activities in the WPS.

It stated, among other things, that Chinese Maritime Militia vessels have been watched in large numbers in the WPS.

“These foreign vessels have no clearance from the Philippine government or any existing fisheries cooperation agreements with the country that allow them to conduct any fishing operations,” the agency said.

The DA-BFAR further stated that their fishing practices are classified as “illegal, unreported, and unregulated” (IUU) fishing in Philippine territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The DA-BFAR continues the deployment of its law enforcement vessels in the WPS, as directed by the NTF-WPS.

The performance of combined seaborne patrol throughout Philippine seas, including the WPS, would be further strengthened with the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between DA-BFAR and the Philippine National Police – Maritime Group, with personnel of the latter serving as ship riders on DA-BFAR vessels.

Meanwhile, the DA-BFAR’s Fisheries Monitoring Center (FMC) operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to supplement the NTF-WPS’ efforts in monitoring fishing operations in the area.

The FMC monitors and tracks activities of Philippine-flagged commercial fishing vessels including foreign vessels equipped with Automatic Identification System (AIS), and detects fishing boats that employ lights to attract fish at night using the satellite-based tool, Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suites (VIIRS).

The DA-BFAR claims that they will be able to employ Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery to improve monitoring and analysis of IUU fishing activities in the WPS as early as next week.

“Through these activities, the DA-BFAR shall continue to assist in keeping the safety of Filipino fisherfolk and exercising our country’s sovereignty and sovereign rights over our territorial waters and EEZ, respectively, in the WPS,” the agency said.

Teodoro Locsin Jr., Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), announced on Twitter on September 30 that the DFA will file three new diplomatic protests against China for a number of illegal actions committed by Beijing in the WPS.

Locsin said he wanted separate protests filed over China’s radio challenges against Philippine maritime patrols, the illegal restriction of Filipino fishermen from fishing in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), and Chinese ships’ continued presence near Iroquois Reef, about 125 nautical miles off Palawan’s coast.

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