MANILA, July 15 (Mabuhay) — An official of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Wednesday clarified that fisherfolk are allowed to continue fishing in and around Bajo de Masinloc — also known as the Scarborough Shoal.

In a press conference in Malacañang, PCG spokesperson, Commodore Armando Balilo said the PCG has not received any recent reports of fisherfolk being denied entry in the area, noting that four PCG ships regularly patrol Bajo de Masinloc.

“In fact, habang nag-uusap po tayo sa mga oras na to, meron report po sa min na meron isang barko at isang bangka na nasa loob mismo ng Bajo de Masinloc (while we’re talking at this time, we have received a report that there is a ship and a fishing boat inside Bajo de Masinloc),” Balilo said.

He said PCG ships also regularly provide food and other necessities to fisherfolk in the area as part of its “Bayanihan sa Karagatan” outreach program.

“Binibigyan namin ng tulong yung mga fishermen na nakikita ng mga tropa na nangingisda po diyan (We extend aid to our fishermen through our troops in the area),” Balilo said.

He noted that many fishermen are currently staying out of Bajo de Masinloc as it is “payao” season.

“Talagang pinipili ng mga mangingisda na majority sa kanila ay nag-i-stay po dun sa kanilang mga payao na medyo malayo sa Bajo de Masinloc (Majority of fisherfolk are choosing to stay in their payaos that are located far from Bajo de Masinloc),” Balilo said.

Payaos are artificial reefs used in the Philippines to attract fish — traditionally made out of bamboo rafts and palm fronds but can also be made out of steel and may use fish lights to increase yields.

In May, the Department of Foreign Affairs rejected China’s unilateral fishing ban in the South China Sea, noting that the ban encroaches areas on Philippine territory and exclusive economic zone, including Bajo de Masinloc.

The supposed fishing moratorium runs from May 1 to August 16.  (MNS)

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