THE Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported on Friday that one of its ships came across a Vietnamese fishing boat off Recto Bank in the Kalayaan Island Group on February 9 with fishing gear blamed for marine habitat damage.
The vessel was engaged in long-line fishing, a commercial fishing technique that uses a main line with baited hooks attached to short branch lines to attract target fish such as swordfish, tuna, halibut, and others.
This technique is often blamed for the death of various marine species.
The incident happened just three days after a Chinese Coast Guard vessel beamed a military-grade laser at another PCG ship, the BRP Malapascua, off Ayungin Shoal, temporarily blinding its crew.
The Malapascua was on a resupply mission for the Philippine Navy in Ayungin at the time.
The PCG said the BRP Teresa Magbanua issued radio challenges and directed the Vietnamese vessel to leave Recto Bank, which is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Magbanua sent a team on Rigid-hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) to board and inspect the fishing boat.
Before the RHIBs can reach the Vietnamese boat, its crew secured its lines and sailed away.
The boat was escorted from the area by the Magbanua, the PCG said.
Located 280 nautical miles northwest of Puerto Princesa City in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the Kalayaan group consists of about 75 islands, caves, shoals, and bank reefs.
The Philippines considers it an integral part of its territory by historical right and legal title.
PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu said the Teresa Magbanua was deployed to the Kalayaan islands upon orders from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to beef up PCG operations in the West Philippine Sea.
The Magbanua is a multi-role response vessel (MRRV) and is the PCG's main patrol ship.
It was built by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co. Ltd in Shimonoseki, Japan, under the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project Phase 2 project of the Department of Transportation (DoTr) in 2016.
The DoTr acquired two MRRVs for Y14.55 billion (P6 billion) under a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Special Terms for Economic Partnership (STEP) loan signed on Feb. 7, 2020.
The Magbanua has a length of 96.6 meters, a maximum speed of 24 knots, and a complement of 67 officers and crew.
She is powered by two 6600 kW diesel engines. She has a helideck and a hangar that can accommodate the PCG's H145T2 helicopter.
The ship has a hyperbaric chamber for divers suffering from decompression sickness and a survivor room for individuals rescued by the ship.
The PCG said that as the summer season approaches, it expects the number of Filipino fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea to increase dramatically.
Before its encounter with the Vietnamese boat, the crew of the Magbanua had boarded Filipino fishing boats in the waters in and around the Kalayaan group to advise their crew to radio PCG or the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) shore units in the area for assistance.
“As the PCG steadily strengthens and increases its Maritime Patrol, Search and Rescue, and Law Enforcement operations in the WPS, it remains firmly committed to safeguarding Philippine interests and rights within the bounds of international law and conventions,” the PCG said in a statement.
Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net