MANILA – The Philippine government said Saturday it will continue its “rotational deployment” to the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc (BDM) to support Filipinos fishing in the area.

The statement came as it presented its initial deployment report, detailing how the operation was a “success” despite the Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels’ dangerous maneuvers and shadowing activities to prevent government ships from engaging with the Filipino fisherfolk.

“Sa kabila po ng mga hamon, matagumpay po ang ginawang paglalayag ng BRP Tamblot at ang mga gawain nito ay ayon po sa isinasaad ng ating batas at sumasakop na pandaigdigang batas katulad po ng UNCLOS (Despite the challenges, the deployment of the BRP Tamblot and its mission was a success and were all in line with domestic and international law, including the UNCLOS),” Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) spokesperson Nazario Briguera said at the Saturday News Forum.

“Ang layunin po ng BFAR ay magbigay ng suporta sa mga mangingisdang Pilipinong mapayapang naghahanapbuhay sa katubigang sakop ng bansa at tradisyunal po nilang pinangingisdaan (The objective of the BFAR is to provide support so that our fisherfolk can fish within Philippine waters and their traditional fishing grounds).”

From Feb. 15 to 16, the bureau was able to supply 14,000 liters of diesel, 60 liters of motor oil, food, medicine, and other necessities to 21 Filipino fishing boats.

‘Not a provocation’

In the same forum, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela maintained that these deployments are neither a provocation nor an attempt to escalate tensions with China.

“(T)heir presence, with or without the government vessels’ rotational deployment of PCG and BFAR vessels in Bajo de Masinloc, nandoon naman sila (they are there),” he explained.

“Ang objective natin dito (Our objective here) is not to provoke anybody, not to escalate the tension in Bajo de Masinloc. Our objective here is to protect the Filipino fishermen, to make sure na ang mga Pilipinong mangingisda ay makakapangisda sa Bajo de Masinloc (that our Filipino fisherfolk could fish in the Bajo de Masinloc).”

Tarriela said the fishers have relayed how they could fish in the area more freely while they watch over, as the Chinese Coast Guard is “more concerned on the presence of the government vessels instead of harassing them.”

Data from the BFAR showed that more than 385,500 Filipinos fish across the West Philippine Sea, where Scarborough Shoal is part of.

The resources from this area alone account for at least 6 percent to 7 percent of the country’s total fish produce, Briguera said.

The National Security Council formally announced the regular rotational deployment of PCG and BFAR on Friday and described it as a “decisive action” to protect the rights and safety of Filipinos in the waters of Scarborough Shoal.

The PCG’s BRP Magbanua (MRRV-9701) completed its nine-day patrol in Bajo de Masinloc from Feb. 1 to 9, while BFAR’s BRP Tamblot (MRROV-3005) arrived in the area on Feb. 15 but had to leave the next day due to bad weather.

BFAR also deployed its aircraft Cessna 208B to conduct aerial monitoring over the shoal, the same plane that received “radio challenges” from a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy ship.