CLARK FREEPORT – The commander of the unified Armed Forces North Luzon Command (Nolcom) has denied that Chinese forces are harassing Filipino fishermen in areas being claimed by the Chinese off the coast of Zambales.
Nolcom commander Lt. Gen. Emmanual Salamat said in a statement that “we have coordinated with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and initially, there were no reports of Filipino fishermen being subjected to the said attack of Chinese water cannons, and so far, there were no sightings of dredging ships in the waters of Bajo De Masinloc or in the West Philippine Sea.”
Noting that the area is under the Nolcom, Salamat said “a campaign video of a politician (Neri Colmenares) has been circulating on the internet that is targeting supposed ‘issues’ between China and the Philippines with regards to the disputes/harassments happening against Filipino fisherfolks on the waters of the West Philippine Sea specifically at Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc.”
“Nolcom aims to clarify these intriguing issues which were mentioned without proper substantiation as viewed from his campaign video. Issues like the presence of China’s dredging ships and Chinese harassments of Filipino fishermen in Zambales were heavily highlighted in the video,” he said.
Salamat stressed that “we have regular Navy and Coast Guard Maritime patrols in the northern maritime borders covered by our AOR to ensure freedom of navigation in the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC).”
“Politicians should not exploit sensitive national issues such as these if they are not backed by a solid foundation and proper confirmation just to suit their own benefit. Such action could cause undue alarm to the public and may affect our credibility as a nation once proven false, which are unnecessary,” he also said.
Salamat also said Nolcom is “assuring the Filipino people that it will remain committed to doing its mandate of protecting the people and securing the sovereign territory within its area of responsibility that includes the country’s vast Northern Maritime areas.”