Chinese Coast Guard rescues 2 PH fishermen near Scarborough

MANILA, Philippines – The Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) rescued two Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc) on Thursday night, December 1.

Commander Armand Balilo, Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson, said on Friday, December 2, that the fishermen – Morrey Sierra, 45; and Lloyd Akeiot, 37 – were turned over to the PCG Friday morning, December 2.

The fishermen were reported missing on Tuesday, November 29. The PCG said it coordinated with the CCG to conduct a search and rescue operation since they were always in the in Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground for Filipinos.

Balilo said the PCG's BRP Tubbataha fetched the fishermen from a CCG vessel  near Scarborough Shoal on Friday morning.

"We thank the China Coast Guard because despite the misunderstanding in our territories, they are reliable when it comes to rescue operations," he said.

"If Chinese fishermen needed our assistance, we will rescue them. That's the job of the coast guard regardless of nationality and race," Balilo added.

Previously, CCG vessels have been reported to harass Filipino fishermen in the shoal. (READ: PH fisherfolk: Living with Chinese coast guards's hostility)

On November 21, 5 Filipino fishermen were reported missing after heading to Scarborough where they encountered engine trouble. Another Philippine fishing vessel found them and towed their boat back to Sta Cruz, Zambales, on November 29. 

Since August, the PCG has been conducting regular patrols to Scarborough Shoal,  the site of a tense standoff between PCG and CCG vessels in 2012. The CCG has not left the area since that standoff.

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign an executive order declaring Scarborough Shoal a marine sanctuary, an area where fishing is not allowed, and expects China to do the same. –