MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines filed yet another diplomatic protest against China, this time against their “unilateral” imposition of a fishing ban in the South China Sea.
“According to Paragraph 716 of the Award of the South China Sea Arbitration rendered on 12 July 2016, 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 2016 Arbitral Award also affirmed the traditional and legitimate fishing rights of Filipino fishermen,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday.
“China’s annual fishing moratorium extends far beyond China’s legitimate maritime entitlements under UNCLOS and is without basis under international law. China cannot legally impose nor legally enforce such a moratorium in the West Philippine Sea. “
The fishing ban – in effect from May 1 to August 16 – covers “waters north of 12 degrees north latitude” in the hotly contested waters.
“These waters include areas over which the Philippines exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction,” the DFA stressed.
The UNCLOS provision was also invoked in legitimizing Manila’s claims in the West Philippine Sea in its historic 2016 arbitral ruling victory over Beijing. China has refused to recognize that landmark decision.
The Philippines strongly urged China to “desist from any action and activity that infringes on Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, in contravention of international law.”
DFA Executive Director for Strategic Communications Ivy Banzon-Abalos also raised China’s new Coast Guard law, which effectively grants the Chinese Coast Guard authority to use force in what Beijing considers its maritime jurisdiction.
“This can curtail and put at risk the legitimate rights of Filipino fishermen to fish in Philippine territorial waters and EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” she said.
The controversial law authorizes the Chinese Coast Guard to fire on foreign vessels, allows them to demolish foreign structures built on Chinese-claimed reefs and islands, and to set up exclusion zones to keep foreign vessels out.
For the past three months, the DFA has filed numerous diplomatic protests against China due to the presence of Chinese militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea.
In his national address last April 20, President Rodrigo Duterte admitted violence may erupt if the Philippines continues to assert its rights in areas being claimed by China in the West Philippine Sea despite being well within the country’s exclusive economic zone.