Military investigates alleged blocking incident in Pag-Asa Island

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Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (WESCOM) said that it has initiated investigation on the reported blocking incident in Pag-asa Island involving a local fisherman and a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel.

“According to information received from a local media reporter and news that came out at Gma7 and Abs-Cbn on Tuesday, a certain Mr. Larry Hugo, was on his way to sandbar 2 to fish when he was trailed, blocked and prevented by Chinese Coast Guard in the early morning of January 25, 2021,” WESCOM said in a statement January 28.

“Mr Larry Hugo narrated his experience via media interview that he was aboard a two-man motorized banca to go on fishing at Sandbar 2 when he noticed a CCG with bow number 5103 steaming and stopped in front of him,” it added.

Moreover, according to Hugo he took video and photos of the incident before he returned to Pag-asa wherein he immediately reported the incident as well as provided a copy of the video to an alleged Navy personnel named “Mata”.

“However, based on the report received from Joint Task Force – West who has operational jurisdiction of the area, there was no reported incident of blocking or harrassment occurred at sandbars. And based on the report through our Monitoring Station’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) at PAG-ASA Island the CCG (5103) vessel along with three (3) Chinese fishing vessel was monitored by to have been lying (stationary) at the vicinity of sandbar 2 since 14 January 2021 until 26 January 2021. The AIS is an accurate tracking system that detects actual location, course, speed and movement of a targetted ship at sea,” the military command said.

“It is also improbable that the Chinese Coast Guard vessel will block him between cay 1 (the alleged origin of Mr Hugo) and cay 2 (his destination) because the water in between the two cays are too shallow for any ship to venture without risking running aground. Good seamanship will dictate that this is not the most likely course of action. Hence, the only possible way for Mr Hugo’s motorboat to come across with CCG 5103 is for Mr Hugo to traverse southwest which is not the most direct and efficient path going to cay 2. If this is what happened, this in turn will imperil his limited fuel given the size of his boat, it is not economical,” WESCOM said. “And based on the roster of AFP Personnel currently stationed at Pag-Asa Island there is no personnel by the name of “MATA” whom Larry Hugo Fisherman reported the incident. Further, a certain “MATA” was found out to be a civilian resident of the said place.”

The military command noted that, under the direction of National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea and in partnership with the Philippine Coast Guard, it is doing its best and shall always be committed to ensure that the safety and welfare of our people particularly those living in Pag-Asa Island is being taken cared of.

“Hence, we are encouraging our fishermen to continue fishing not only to manifest our sovereign rights but as well as sustain their livelihood,” WESCOM said.