By Priam Nepomuceno

China Coast Guard (File photo)

MANILA – A ranking National Security Council (NSC) official on Monday condemned China’s latest harassment of Filipino fisherfolk in the Bajo de Masinloc in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“We were hoping na ngayong 2024 ay mas magiging tahimik ang WPS ngunit dito sa huling kaganapan kung saan nagkaroon na naman ng pagtataboy o harassment ng ating fishermen sa kamay ng mga CCG (Chinese Coast Guard) ay ikinababahala natin ito and we condemn this latest provocative action on the part of the CCG laban sa ating mangingisda (We were hoping that this 2024, the situation in the WPS will be more peaceful but this latest incident that showed our fishermen being driven and harassed by the CCG personnel is alarming and we condemn this latest provocative action on the part of the CCG against our fishermen),” NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said in Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing.

He was referring to the Jan. 12 incident where five CCG personnel aboard a rubber boat approached a group of Filipino fishermen from the fishing boat “Legendary Jo”, who were gathering seashells at the south entrance of Bajo de Masinloc.

These CCG personnel reportedly forced these fishermen to throw back to the sea the shells they had collected before allowing them to leave.

Malaya, also the spokesperson for the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, said both the Philippines and China have agreed to deescalate the tensions in the maritime area by improving their maritime communication mechanism.

This hope for a more peaceful WPS was further bolstered by the fact that initial resupplying missions to Philippine-held features went off without a hitch.

Malaya also appealed to China to match their actions in the ground with what has been agreed upon by the two governments.

“It is not in the interest of the Philippines nor with China na tumaas ang tension ngayong (to escalate tensions this) 2024,” he added. (PNA)