Filipinos are still able to fish in the Scarborough Shoal with the assistance of concerned government agencies, a spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) clarified.
In a statement released Sunday evening, Colonel Medel Aguilar corrected a statement he made earlier during the day that local fisherfolk could no longer enter the area due to the continued presence of Chinese vessels.
“Please be informed that based on the latest report, our fishermen are still able to fish at the Scarborough Shoal assisted by PCG [Philippine Coast Guard], BFAR [Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources], and NICA [National Intelligence Coordinating Agency],” he said.
“This is to correct my previous statement. My mistake,” he added.
Agular earlier said the Chinese Coast Guard and its maritime militia have blocked the entry of Filipino fishermen from entering the area, which is known to be abundant in marine life.
The Philippines sued China and won in 2016 as it secured a landmark ruling by an international tribunal invalidating Beijing’s massive South China Sea claims.
The same ruling deemed Scarborough Shoal as a common fishing ground, and outlawed China’s aggressions against Filipino fishermen in the area, including preventing local fisherfolk from accessing the shoal.
China has refused to acknowledge such ruling, with over 50 of its vessels spotted in the vicinity of Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the area, as reported by the Western Command earlier this month.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. last November said he told Chinese officials to uphold international law, and follow the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea regarding areas of the South China Sea.
Marcos in January said China will not stop Filipino fishermen from fishing despite tensions in the West Philippine Sea, citing an agreement between Manila and Beijing.
In March, however, China maintained that it has sovereign rights over Scarborough Shoal, following reports of the Philippine Coast Guard of a “close-distance maneuvering” incident involving a Chinese vessel in the area. — Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/BM, GMA Integrated News