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5 Filipinos missing after fishing near disputed shoal

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    In this Sept. 23, 2015 photo, Chinese Coast Guard members approach Filipino fishermen off the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, also called the West Philippine Sea.

MANILA >> Philippine coast guard officials said Monday they’ve launched a search for five Filipinos who failed to return after fishing in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in bad weather off the country’s northwest.

Coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo said the fishermen left the shoal due to an approaching typhoon last week and have not been heard from since. Boats and ships passing in the area were alerted after a fisherman notified authorities about his missing colleagues.

The Philippine coast guard plans to coordinate its search with its Chinese counterpart in the Scarborough area, Balilo said.

China seized the shoal in 2012 after a maritime standoff with Philippines. Chinese coast guard ships have been blocking Filipino fishermen from the shoal but were allowed back after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte discussed the territorial rift with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month.

Philippine coast guard ships have also resumed patrols in the area. China’s gesture eased years of tensions in the rich fishing area.

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