BAMBANG, Nueva Vizcaya: The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Region 2 has beefed up its patrols to prevent foreign intrusions in the country’s northern seas following reports of the continued presence of Taiwanese vessels in Batanes waters.
The heightened security comes amid rising tensions between the Philippines and Taiwan over last month’s killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
Dr. Jovita Ayson, BFAR director for Region 2, said their office in Tuguegarao City has received reports of Taiwanese vessels in Batanes waters despite the ongoing inquiry by Philippine and Taiwan authorities over the incident.
Ayson said the incident will not stop BFAR from patrolling the area against foreign poachers. The BFAR “will strengthen and strictly implement our fishery laws,” she said.
Ayson said the BFAR office in Batanes reported recently that a Taiwanese fishing crew near Itbayat town even “fired flare guns to possibly discourage and scare (our) law enforcement team from pursuing them.”
There were also several previous cases “where foreign poachers even tried to ram (our) patrolling vessels when cornered in the high seas,” Ayson said earlier this week at BFAR’s Fisherfolk Month celebrations.
Poachers “have always been a pain in the neck as they continue to intrude into Philippine waters treating them as their own economic playground,” BFAR officials said, referring to Taiwanese and Chinese poachers who employ Indonesians, Vietnamese as well as Filipino crew.
Earlier, the provincial leadership in Batanes called on the Philippine Navy and the PCG to help them stop poaching by Taiwanese and Chinese fishers.
Asis Perez, BFAR national director, said the Philippine government sympathizes with the family of the Taiwanese fisherman who was shot and killed by the PCG.
The Coast Guard vessel chanced upon the Taiwanese boats in the Babuyan Channel last month.
Disputing Philippine claims that the Coast Guard crew fired in self-defense because the Taiwanese vessel was about to ram them,
Perez said efforts will be instituted to prevent similar occurrences. “We will increase our visibility in the area to prevent future incursions of our waters,” he said.
In 1998, Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Act was enacted because the government said it has always been helpless against poachers who have turned the waters along the country’s northern parts into their “economic playground.”
Leander C. Domingo