The Philippines is purchasing nearly 100 new patrol boats to better protect its fisheries from poaching by foreign vessels, an official said Monday.
According to Asis Perez, chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Philippines has ordered 98 new vessels – 71 short-range boats for coastal patrols and 27 that are able to go out farther into the sea. Most of them will be delivered this year. The agency is also reportedly seeking funding to acquire 10 larger boats that can patrol the high seas.
The vessels, Perez said, would be used to protect Philippine fisheries. He said that the agency’s current 20 patrol boats were woefully inadequate to cover 36,000 kilometers (22,370 miles) of coastline and over 7,100 islands. Though he admitted that Manila would still fall short of its needs with the new additions, he said it was all that the country could currently afford.
The announcement comes amid rising Philippine anxieties about poaching by foreign vessels – particularly from China and Taiwan – and sovereignty concerns more generally. Fishing incidents have been occurring amidst confrontations between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. In one high-profile case last year, Chinese fishermen were caught poaching by the Philippines last year in Half Moon Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands, with their boats carrying hundreds of endangered sea turtles. They were jailed and deported earlier this month. On other occasions, Chinese surveillance vessels have actively prevented Manila from arresting Chinese poachers who collect endangered marine species around contested features.
Taiwan has been another country of concern in this area for the Philippines, though the two nations are working to resolve their differences. Earlier this month, Manila and Taipei had a standoff when a Philippine Coast Guard vessel towing a Taiwanese fishing vessel was blocked by a Taiwanese Coast Guard cutter demanding its release. The standoff was just the latest in a string of fishing incidents over the past few months. In early June, a Philippine Coast Guard officer said that Manila planned to deploy several new patrols boats in the waters off of its northern region where its exclusive economic zone overlaps with Taiwan. The two countries are currently working toward concluding a fisheries agreement to help resolve some aspects of ongoing disputes.