Zambales taps Canadian firm vs intrusion in disputed seas
SUBIC, Zambales—The province that is staring Chinese aggression in the face has secured help from a Canadian surveillance firm to keep track of the intrusion of foreign vessels and other marine activities in the West Philippine Sea.
Backed by a March 23 provincial board resolution, the Zambales government has commissioned Xanatos Marine Ltd. to put up a system that would monitor in real time all vessels which enter the province’s territorial waters, Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said on Thursday.
Using the surveillance system, Zambales can “prevent foreign fishermen from illegally entering our territorial waters,” he said. “We will show them that they can’t just bully us,” he said.
Xanatos’ Provincial Coast Watch System was initially offered to Zambales as an initiative to protect the coastal waters of Zambales from waste dumping into the sea, Ebdane said.
“We’ve been receiving reports that there are many foreign vessels that dump human waste into our territorial waters. That’s the reason we are seeking the help of this Canadian company,” he said.
Xanatos is a Vancouver-based technology company which describes its product in its website as an automatic identification system that collates information about any vessel’s position, course and speed using a transponder system.
The company first offered its system to the Department of Transportation and Communication in 2012, to combat smuggling, piracy and terrorism and to help in search and rescue operations.
But the provincial board cited the benefits of the surveillance system for local fishing communities that have been harassed while fishing at Bajo de Masinloc, also referred to as Scarborough Shoal.
The Scarborough Shoal is an “ancient territory of the province of Zambales [that] has become one of the flash points of territorial dispute between the Philippines and China,” the board resolution said.
Recently, 80 fishermen from Zambales, Pangasinan and Bataan provinces were driven off Scarborough Shoal by water cannons fired by patrolling Chinese Coast Guard vessels.
The shoal, which is some 230 kilometers from Masinloc town, Zambales, serves as a mid-sea refuge for fishing boats during stormy weather. It is considered a free zone for local fishermen until the Chinese began patrolling the West Philippine Sea.
Ebdane said the Xanatos system would be integrated with the monitoring system of the Philippine Coast Guard. The system would also help Zambales keep track of vessels that would need to pay tariff when they dock to transact business in the province, he said.
“We want to identify every ship that enters our territory and get information about its purpose. If a vessel is not authorized to be here, then it will be questioned,” he said.
Masinloc Mayor Desiree Edora said the system can bring back fishermen to the shoal. “Our fishermen have been afraid to return to the shoal. They would rather stay within the municipal waters of Masinloc,” Edora said.
She said a 127-hectare fishing sanctuary in the island village of San Salvador has become an alternative fishing ground for local fishermen. Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon
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