Subic fishermen confirm new Chinese ships at Scarborough
SUBIC, Zambales—-Fishermen from this town have confirmed the presence of new Chinese vessels at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, after venturing into South China Sea waters outside their traditional fishing ground off the province.
Matias Pumicpic, 55, of Barangay Calapandayan here, said he saw five Chinese vessels patrolling the shoal last month, including those that were spotted and photographed by a government surveillance plane.
The Philippine government on Wednesday released photos of Chinese ships capable of dredging, raising concern that China was starting to build another artificial island at Scarborough Shoal, known locally as Panatag Shoal.
“There were three white and two gray vessels patrolling the shoal. These ships had Chinese flags and Chinese markings,” Pumicpic said.
Besides the five ships, two Chinese Coast Guard vessels were stationed at the shoal, he said.
“We can confirm the reports that China has sent more of its warships to the shoal because we’ve seen them ourselves,” he said.
“We can only get as close as [30 kilometers] away from the shoal so we can’t tell for sure if China has construction activities around the area,” he said.
Early this week, fishing boats carrying 35 Filipino fishermen ventured into the shoal after reports said the Chinese government had agreed to let them fish in the area, according to Ronald Polo, 45, a fishermen from Barangay Wawandue here.
Polo said the fishermen sent radio messages on Wednesday informing other fishermen here that a rubber boat deployed by the Chinese Coast Guard had cut their anchor cables and driven them away.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay earlier said the government was pushing for a provisional agreement between the Philippines and China to allow Filipino fishermen to return to shoal.
The shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc, lies 260 kilometers from Zambales, well within the Philippines 370-km exclusive economic zone.
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