Prohibition of illegal fishing | Opinion of investigators
Hundreds of Chinese Maritime Militia ships are still scattered across the West Philippine Sea (WPS), and yet comes another intrusion from China – its annual South China Sea “fishing ban” that threatens areas. of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The fishing ban, which China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has announced will be in effect from May 1 to August 16, affects waters north of the 12th parallel, including waters to the west from Busuanga Island to Palawan just north of Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) or Bajo de Masinloc. Additionally, the ban covers two of the 12 Fisheries Management Zones in the Philippines designated by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), which include the waters surrounding the provinces of Ancient, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, Ilocos Norte. , Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cavite and Batangas.
The Foreign Ministry (DFA) lodged a protest, stressing that “China’s annual fishing moratorium goes far beyond China’s legitimate maritime rights under Unclos and is baseless under international law . China cannot legally impose or legally enforce such a moratorium in the West Philippine Sea. “
The ban, which is not limited to Chinese ships, clearly violates Philippine sovereign rights asserted in the July 2016 arbitration award won by the Philippines, as well as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). As the DFA pointed out, pursuant to paragraph 716 of the arbitration award, the ban violated Article 56 of the 1982 Unclos “with respect to the sovereign rights of the Philippines over the living resources of its EEZ”.
The ban now comes with a heightened sense of danger after China passed a law last February allowing the Chinese coastguard to fire at foreign ships, demolish structures in other countries on the islands and reefs claimed by China and to create exclusion zones. This new law effectively grants the Chinese Coast Guard the freedom and authority to use force in what it sees as its maritime jurisdiction, said Ivy Banzon Abalos, spokesperson for the DFA. “This may restrict and jeopardize the legitimate rights of Filipino fishermen to fish in Philippine territorial waters and the EEZ.”
The Coast Guard law and the fishing ban are a double whammy for Filipino fishermen, who have already been driven from their traditional fishing grounds by the intimidating Chinese presence. “There is in fact an indefinite and unreported fishing ban in almost the entire South China Sea thanks to the continued presence of Chinese vessels which create intimidation among Filipino fishermen,” said Bobby Roldan, vice chairman of the group. of Pamalakaya fishermen. Thus, the ban “deserves to be challenged by both Filipino fishermen and fishermen from other countries claiming the South China Sea”.
Fishermen and conservation groups have also warned that the fishing ban will affect the fish supply in provinces around the covered waters, and even in metro Manila. Asis Perez, organizer of Tugon Kabuhayan and former head of BFAR, noted that about 70 percent of the round scad (galunggong) catch in Palawan goes to Metro Manila, the capital’s tuna supply comes from Mindoro. and other fish species come from the waters off Zambales and Ilocos.
Rightly, the National Working Group for the Western Philippine Sea has strongly opposed, like the DFA, China’s action. He encouraged Filipino fishermen to continue fishing in Philippine waters, saying China’s ban “does not apply to our fishermen.”
Citizens indignant and bewildered by Malacañang’s cascade of hugely contradictory signals and statements about China’s muscle flexion in the WPS can only hope that the steadfastness and determination shown now is sustained and amplified, and not yet again undermined by considered the statements of the president and his lieutenants. The deplorable rhetoric from top Philippine officials in recent weeks, disparaging the arbitration award and throwing blame on previous administrations rather than China for its seizure of Philippine reefs and continued encroachment on the country’s waters, could not but be beneficial and heartwarming for the public service. in Beijing, who must be beside themselves with joy in front of the lawyer made for them by no less than the spokesman of the palace Harry Roque.
The Philippines, through the DFA, and supported by countries like the United States, Japan, Australia, and European countries that have cited the landmark arbitral award as the basis for any legitimate and rule-based consensus on the South China Sea, are well within its rights to demand that China “refrain from any action and activity that undermines the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines in violation of international law.” Its fishing ban is groundless and illegal, and should be challenged and ignored.
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