Air patrols embolden fishermen to return to Scarborough Shoal
SUBIC, Zambales — Air patrols conducted by four United States jet fighters and military helicopters near the disputed Scarborough Shoal have provided Filipino fishermen some respite from Chinese Coast Guard patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
Before sailing back to the shoal early this week, Joely Saligan said he was certain Chinese patrols would be “more cautious this time since the US is helping our country in securing the shoal.”
He was referring to joint Philippine-US patrols being carried out in the shoal.
The Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) announced last week that the Philippines and the US have agreed to enhance maritime security in the West Philippine Sea at the conclusion of this year’s annual Balikatan exercises.
Around 200 US servicemen who took part in the war games would stay in the Philippines for joint air patrols with their Filipino counterparts, said US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who recently visited the country.
In 2014, the two countries signed the 10-year Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that would give the US military greater access to Philippine military bases.
The US jet fighters that patrol the disputed shoal are stationed at the Clark Air Field in Pampanga province.
Saligan and the other crew of FB Leslie May left this town on Monday for a month-long fishing trip to the shoal.
“We recognize the risks that come with fishing near the shoal. But we have no other options because it’s there where we make a living,” said Saligan, part of a crew that fought off a Chinese Coast Guard vessel that was driving them away from the shoal.
The shoal is located 230 kilometers from Masinloc town, Zambales province, within the Philippines’ 370-km exclusive economic zone. SFM
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