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Rufus lauds PCG for putting buoys in WPS

May 15, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 142 views

CAGAYAN de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez on Monday commended the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for placing five navigational buoys to assert the country’s sovereignty over disputed islets, reefs, and shoals in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“The Coast Guard should install more buoys in the entire breadth of the WPS, from the northern part of the country in the Ilocos region to the south in the Palawan area, because that is the extent of Philippine territorial waters China is claiming,” he said.

Rodriguez said the markers “should serve as a warning to the Chinese and other foreign powers that those are a demarcation of our 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under international law.”

“China should leave that area. They have no business occupying certain islets and sea features there,” he said.

The Mindanao lawmaker urged the PCG to procure more buoys and to include funding for those markers in its budget proposal to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Congress.

He said Coast Guard could also seek the help of the Philippine Navy (PN) in placing the buoys.

According to reports, the PCG installed markers carrying the national flag in five areas near the Spratly Islands group off Palawan, including Juan Felipe Reef, also known as Whitsun Reef, last month.

In March 2001, the government protested the presence of more than 200 Chinese vessels around Juan Felipe Reef, which is about 175 miles from the Palawan town of Bataraza, well within the country’s 200-mile EEZ.

About half of the ships left in the aftermath of the protest. A year later, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) again sent Beijing a diplomatic note complaining about the continued presence of Chinese vessels in the vicinity of Juan Felipe Reef.

Rodriguez said the Coast Guard should also place buoys near Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, which is about 120 miles from Zambales and Pangasinan and a traditional fishing ground for Filipino fishermen from the two provinces.

“That is clearly part of our EEZ, and yet China is occupying it. The Chinese Coast Guard routinely harasses our fishermen there,” he said.

China seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012 after a standoff between the Chinese Coast Guard and the PCG.