May 282013

MANILA, Philippines—The Aquino administration will soon identify “alternative fishing grounds” for Filipino fishermen so as not to exacerbate tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

At the same time, the government will endeavor to beef up its maritime assets to establish “a minimum credible defense,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told a Palace briefing on Tuesday.

Valte explained that the government would continue to pursue its “nonengagement policy” on the issue of the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea, in answer to a question about the presence of a fleet of Chinese fishing boats, accompanied by patrol vessels, at Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Reef).

On May 10, the Philippines protested the presence of the Chinese boats since Ayungin lies 196 kilometers from Palawan province, and thus well within the Philippines’ 370-km exclusive economic zone.

According to Valte, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has designated a particular area to be opened as an alternative fishing ground for Filipino fishermen.—Michael Lim Ubac

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