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Philippines: Chinese fishing ban in West Philippine Sea baseless

The Philippines on Tuesday protested China’s fishing ban in the South China Sea, saying the unilateral policy infringes on the country’s sovereignty over its waters.

Manila said it does not recognize China’s fishing moratorium from May 1 to August 16, 2021 as it covers waters in areas where the Philippines exercises” sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.”

“China’s annual fishing moratorium extends far beyond China’s legitimate maritime entitlements under UNCLOS and is without basis under international law,” a statement by the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

“China can not legally impose nor legally enforce such a moratorium in the West Philippines Sea.”

UNCLOS stands for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which extends the territorial jurisdiction of maritime states up to 200 nautical miles from its coasts. It was signed by at least 162 nations including the Philippines and China. 

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China said the ban covers “waters north of 12 degrees north latitude in the South China Sea,” areas that include Philippine waters.

“The Philippines strongly urges China to desist from any action and activity that infringes on Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, in contravention of international law,” the DFA said.

Paragraph 716 of the Award of the South China Sea Arbitration rendered on July 12, 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands states that any Chinese fishing moratorium in the South China Sea that includes the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone is illegal, the DFA said.

“China, by promulgating its moratorium on fishing in the South China Sea, ‘without exception for areas of the South China Sea falling within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and without limiting the moratorium to Chinese flagged vessels, breached Article 56 of the 1982 UNCLOS with respect to the Philippines' sovereign rights over the living resources of its exclusive economic zone,’” the DFA said.

The tribunal, which ruled in favor of the Philippines, also affirmed the traditional and legitimate fishing rights of Filipino fishermen.

Manila and Beijing have traded diplomatic barbs since March after Philippine authorities spotted more than 200 Chinese maritime militia vessels in areas within its waters. Chinese vessels were scattered in several areas in the West Philippine Sea as Beijing continue to defy Manila’s barrage of diplomatic protests.

China has rejected the 2016 international tribunal ruling and maintained indisputable and historic rights over 90% of the South China Sea — a major shipping route and said to be harboring rich oil and gas reserves.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the resource-rich waters. —NB/KG, GMA News