By Francis Wakefield
Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon Command (AFP-NoLCom) Chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel B. Salamat said that they have not received any report that Filipino fishermen were being prevented by the Chinese to fish on Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc.
Salamat made the remark after a campaign video of senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares circulated on the internet that supposedly showed “issues” between China and the Philippines with regards to the disputes or harassment against Filipino fisherfolks in the waters of the West Philippine Sea, specifically at Bajo de Masinloc. This is under the area of responsibility of the Northern Luzon Command.
“NoLCom aims to clarify these intriguing issues which were mentioned without proper substantiation as viewed from his campaign video. Issues like the presence of China’s dredging ships and Chinese harassments of Filipino fishermen in Zambales were heavily highlighted in the video,” Salamat said.
“We have coordinated with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and, initially, there were no reports of Filipino Fishermen being subjected to the said attack of Chinese water cannons, and so far, there were no sightings of dredging ships in the waters of Bajo De Masinloc or in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
Salamat assured that they have regular Navy and Coast Guard Maritime patrols in the northern maritime borders covered by their AOR to ensure freedom of navigation in the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC).
He also appealed to politicians to not exploit sensitive national issues such as the West Philippine Sea if they are not backed by a solid foundation and proper confirmation just to suit their own benefit.
“Such action could cause undue alarm to the public and may affect our credibility as a nation once proven false, which are unnecessary,”Salamat said.
“NoLCom assures the Filipino people that it will remain committed to doing its mandate of protecting the people and securing the sovereign territory within its area of responsibility that includes the country’s vast Northern Maritime areas,” he added.