China’s fishing ban in contested waters violates PH sovereignty

MANILA – The Philippine government on Tuesday night firmly rejected China’s unilateral fishing ban in the South China Sea, saying it violates Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights.

The supposed moratorium runs from May 1 to August 16 and covers “waters north of 12 degrees north latitude,” which encroaches areas on Philippine territory and exclusive economic zone (EEZ), including the Bajo de Masinloc.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) told China that it cannot legally impose or enforce such a ban in the West Philippine Sea.

“China’s annual fishing moratorium extends far beyond China’s legitimate maritime entitlements under UNCLOS and is without basis under international law,” it said.

“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 UNCLOS or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is an international treaty that provides a regulatory framework for the use of the world’s seas and oceans to ensure the conservation and equitable usage of resources and marine environment.

The DFA said with the new Chinese Coast Guard law, which effectively grants the latter freedom and authority to use force within what it considers its maritime jurisdiction, the fishing ban puts “at risk the legitimate rights of Filipino fishermen” to fish in Philippine territorial waters and EEZ.

It underscored that the 2016 Arbitral Ruling has reaffirmed Filipino fishermen’s traditional and legitimate fishing rights in the area.

“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 DFA said.The department fired off the diplomatic protest against the Chinese fishing moratorium on May 17. 

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