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122 Chinese vessels spotted in WPS amid China fishing ban

Amid a South China Sea (SCS) fishing moratorium unilaterally imposed by China, the Philippine Navy said on Tuesday that they had monitored 122 Chinese vessels at West Philippine Sea (WPS) features.

Navy Spokesperson for the WPS Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said that among the Chinese vessels seen in the WPS from May 21 to 27 were:

  • Bajo de Masinloc - five Chinese Coast Guard vessels (CCGVs), 14 Chinese maritime militia vessels (CMMVs)
  • Ayungin Shoal - five CCGVs, 17 CMMVs
  • Pag-asa Island - 1 CCGV, 1 PLAN ship, 34 CMMVs
  • Kota Island - one CMMV
  • Lawak Island - one CMMV
  • Panata Island - three CMMVs
  • Patag Island - two CCGVs, two CMMVs
  • Sabina Shoal - two CCGVs, four PLAN ships, 30 CMMVs

However, Trinidad emphasized that the Philippine Navy did not recognize the Chinese fishing moratorium on the SCS, including the WPS.

“The Philippine Navy does not recognize this provocative statement nor will we be deterred in performing our mandate of securing the welfare of Filipinos wherever he/she is — on land or sea” Trinidad told reporters.

He added that patrols had been increased in the WPS, including the Bajo de Masinloc and the northern islands, following the shift of the Philippine military to external defense and the implementation of the Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept (CADC).

On Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) protested China's fishing ban as it violated international law and undermined the country's sovereignty and maritime rights.

Manila said it did not recognize China’s May 1 to September 16 fishing moratorium as it included Manila's maritime zones over which the Philippines had sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction.

"The Philippines called on China to cease and desist from the conduct of illegal actions that violate the Philippines' sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in its maritime zones," the DFA said in a statement.

It also urged China to "comply with its obligations under international law, particularly the 1982 UNCLOS and the final and binding 2016 Arbitral Award; and adhere to its commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea."

China's fishing ban came a week after it announced that it would detain foreigners intruding into areas it claimed in the South China Sea.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce. Its territorial claims overlap with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.

Manila calls parts of the waters within its exclusive economic zone as the West Philippine Sea.

In 2016, an international arbitration tribunal in the Hague ruled that China's claims over the South China Sea had no legal basis, a decision Beijing does not recognize. — DVM, GMA Integrated News