By Jonas Reyes
Subic, Zambales – Change has come not only in the renewed ties between China and the Philippines but in the once-contentious Panatag shoal as well. Fishermen who have tested the waters and came back with abundant catch have another reason to be happy. The Philippine Coast Guard will soon deploy patrol crafts to patrol Panatag shoal. Panatag in English means “calm.”
Arnel Tolero, owner of the fishing vessel Princess Mara said his crew are now more at ease with the fact that the PCG will be patrolling the area because accidents or sea mishaps would now be attended to immediately.
“Para kaming nakahinga ng maluwag, pinayagan na kami mangisda, sasamahan pa kami ng PCG (This is a sigh of relief. We are not only allowed to venture out into Panatag to fish. The Coast Guard will also be there to accompany us),” he added.
Tolero said his crew already had a few run-ins with the Chinese Coast Guard. The worst was when guns were aimed at them. But he said there were also times when the Chinese were approachable trading fish with drinking water.
His crew has already been to Panatag last week, a day after fishermen from Infanta, Pangasinan came back with a large haul of fish. Now, they are raring to go back to the disputed shoal, hoping that they would not be bothered by the Chinese Coast Guard.
PCG Commandant Rear Admiral William Melad said six PCG ships will be patrolling Scarborough Shoal. Three will be on regular patrol while the other three will be used for monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) vessels.
The patrol ships will be rotated every two or three days.
Melad said the BRP Tubbataha, PCG’s newest multi-role response vessel (MRRV), will also take part in the patrols along with BRP Davao del Norte and the BRP Pampanga.