by Roy C. Mabasa and Samuel P. Medenilla
The Chinese Coast Guard vowed to continue assisting its Philippine counterpart in the ongoing search and rescue operations being undertaken for five Filipino fishermen who went missing after fishing near the Scarborough Shoal.
The assurance came after Chinese authorities rescued recently two Filipino fishermen from the waters near the disputed shoal in the West Philippine Sea and is now verifying their identities.
“Attaching great importance to what has happened, the Chinese side has asked Chinese boats to search in relevant waters,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a press briefing a transcript of which was posted in the official website of the Chinese Embassy in Manila.
“The Chinese side will continue with the search and rescue in relevant waters.”
In its report, the Philippine Coast Guard said the fishermen were onboard F/Bca Antalan Tabat and were approximately 30 nautical miles away from Scarborough Shoal ioff Masinloc, Zambales before going missing last November 21.
The missing fishermen were identified as Jack Tabat, Jimmy Tabat, Jessie Aparreci, Bimboo Requinto and Allan Rivera.
The skipper of another fishingboat reported the incident to Coast Guard Sub-station Sta. Cruz last Nov. 25.
PCG Commandant Rear Admiral William Melad dispatched BRP Tubbataha (MRRV-4401) and PCG Islander to conduct search and rescue operations to the five missing fishermen.
The Coast Guard already advised all fishermen in Zambales particularly those who are fishing at the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal to be on the lookout for the missing boat and fishermen and to render necessary assistance if sighted.
The incident came amid reports that the Chinese government is seriously considering a “wholesale” agreement that will grant Philippine fishing vessels access to the disputed Scarborough Shoal waters–four years after China’s coastguard prevented and blocked Filipino boats from fishing around the hotly contested area.