BFAR says Sara’s realigned secret funds to strengthen agency’s WPS response
MANILA, Philippines — Confidential funds of the office and agency helmed by Vice President Sara Duterte, which lawmakers plan to realign to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), would “strengthen and enhance” its monitoring, control, and surveillance efforts in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
BFAR National Director Demosthenes Escoto made the assurance on Tuesday following moves at the lower chamber to allocate the requested P650-million secret funds for the Office of the Vice President and Department of Education to the budget of agencies protecting the WPS like the BFAR, the Philippine Coast Guard (PGC) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the members of Congress advocating additional funds to BFAR and other security agencies,” Escoto said in a statement.
“This initiative would empower our agency to strengthen and enhance our existing monitoring, control, and surveillance activities in the WPS and other fishing grounds to ensure the sustainable use of our marine resources and safeguard the livelihoods of our fisherfolk,” he added.
BFAR is mandated to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing, employing floating assets to monitor unlawful fishing activities.
The bureau also assists in conducting monthly resupply missions in BRP Sierra Madre stationed in Ayungin Shoal together with the PCG and other government agencies.
The resupply mission in the commissioned Philippine Navy ship was hounded with harassment of the China Coast Guard through their use of military-grade lasers last February and water cannons in August.
China’s actions are based on its assertion that it owns most of the South China Sea, including the WPS, through its ten-dash line.
In 2013, the then nine-dash line was challenged by the Philippines before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, but the 2016 Arbitral Award effectively dismissed the sweeping demarcation.
Escoto said the BFAR “remains committed to combating IUU fishing and empowering Filipino fisherfolk with our existing assets and resources.”
“We want to ensure they can fish peacefully, productively, and sustainably in our waters, especially in the WPS, which rightfully belongs to Filipinos,” he added.