MANILA — Despite the reported harassment of Chinese Coast Guard ships against Filipino fishermen, Western Command head Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez on Tuesday told fishermen to continue asserting their fishing rights at Scarborough Shoal as it is a legitimate Philippine territory.
“Our message (to Filipino fishermen despite the purported Chinese harassment) is to continue going there (because) it is ours.That’s a traditional fishing country,” he added.
He made this appeal especially to fishermen based in Northern Luzon.
At the same time, Lopez said there is an average three Chinese Coast Guard ships off Scarborough Shoal, with the sole purpose of driving away Filipino fisherfolks.
He also stressed that they are yet to detect any Chinese reclamation efforts in the vicinity.
Scarborough Shoal has been placed under the operational jurisdiction of the Palawan-based Western Command in February 2014, through the orders of then Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.
“The area of Bajo De Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) has been transferred from the Northern Luzon Command to the Western Command. This is to enhance our external defense capabilities which is now being concentrated at the Western Command and unity of effort and command so that our external defense efforts will just be under one commander and that is the Western Command commander,” he added.