AFP official says more Filipino fishers go to Ayungin Shoal, Rozul Reef
MANILA, Philippines — Filipino fishermen have returned to Ayungin Shoal and Rozul Reef in the West Philippine Sea, and their numbers are growing.
Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s (AFP) Western Command (Wescom), revealed this on Wednesday, sharing their observation last month.
“I am happy to report that in the last month, Filipino fishermen have been present in Ayungin [Shoal] and Rozul Reef for four weeks,” he said, partly in Filipino, in an ambush interview after an event in Makati.
“We are happy to note that their numbers have increased,” he added but did not elaborate further.
Carlos said Wescom is working to encourage more Filipino fishermen to go to Ayungin Shoal and Rozul Reef.
“We need more [Filipino fishermen]. We need to increase their numbers, but it’s a good start,” he stressed.
Previously, Carlos reported that corals in Rozul Reef have been depleted. He expressed suspicions that Chinese vessels have been harvesting corals from the West Philippine Sea.
At a news forum on September 16, he said: “We noticed coral harvesting in their swarming areas. After they departed, we pinpointed the location and dispatched divers for an underwater survey. They observed that no corals remained – everything was damaged, with debris scattered.”
“There’s nothing left in the area,” he later said.
He also cited the observations of Navy divers that the coral harvesting appeared recent.
“If the damage is old or new, but from the untrained eyes of the Navy divers, it looks recent,” he said in the same forum, adding that the AFP is coordinating with scientists and experts for an assessment of the area.
“We are not drawing any conclusions at this time. It’s a work in progress,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Ayungin Shoal is where the BRP Sierra Madre was grounded in 1999. A small AFP contingent is aboard the former World War Two-era ship since.
Early last month, a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel near the shoal attacked Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels escorting two boats in the West Philippine Sea with a water cannon, a type that is among the world’s strongest, according to a Philippine official.
The two boats were on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre when the incident happened.
China asserts that it owns most of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, through its 10-dash line – which used to be nine-dash line but was invalidated by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The Philippine government challenged China’s claims in 2013 and won the case in July 2016.