Coast Guard may pull out of shoal

MANILA — Given the weather condition in the West Philippine Sea, the government may order the Coast Guard and Fisheries agency to pull out of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said on Sunday.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said that the tropical cyclone Dindo moved away from the Philippines early Friday. It was forecast to exit from the West Philippine Sea by 6 to 8 a.m. Pag-asa also said that a potential cyclone might enter the Philippine territory on Monday.

The inclement weather had forced China and the Philippines to withdraw their ships amid tension on Scarborough Shoal. The standoff between the Philippines and China started last April 10 when Beijing blocked Manila from arresting their fishermen who were caught poaching corals, giant clams and live sharks at 124 nautical miles west of Luzon, or Manilas territory.

The tension simmered down after President Benigno Aquino III ordered the Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to withdraw from the shoal because of the threat brought by Typhoon Butchoy.

China withdrew its fishing vessels but refused to pull out its government ships outside the lagoon of the disputed area.
China is asserting sovereignty over nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, including the resource-rich Spratly and Paracel-islands, on which the Philippines is also staking a claim.

The Philippines also insists that the shoal is well within its 124-mautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf.

Meanwhile, The Palace is looking at the possibility of extending the two-month fishing ban in the West Philippine Sea.

But that will depend on how the BFARs assesses the situation, Valte said.

The fishing ban covers 60 square nautical miles of Panatag Shoal and the one-mile distance from its margins or total of 90 square nautical miles.

Two months ago, BFAR director Asis Perez issued a fishing ban due to the protection and conservation of the maritime resources in the area.

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