PH files diplomatic protest over China fishing moratorium in disputed waters

PH files diplomatic protest over China fishing moratorium in disputed waters

Read this in The Manila Times digital edition.

(UPDATE) THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday filed a diplomatic protest against China’s unilateral imposition of a moratorium on fishing in the South China Sea (SCS) or the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The DFA noted that China’s fishing ban started on May 1 and is expected to last until August 16.

In a diplomatic note dated May 30, 2022, the DFA said Manila “conveyed its protest to the moratorium, which covers areas in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) over which the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.”

It added that paragraph 716 of the final and binding Award on the South China Sea Arbitration rendered on July 12, 2016, states that China, by promulgating its moratorium on fishing in the SCS “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 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) with respect to the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the living resources of its exclusive economic zone.”

When sought for comment on the DFA’s diplomatic protest, the Chinese Embassy in Manila, in a text message, simply said, “Noted.”

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The DFA reiterated its continuing protest of China’s “annual practice of declaring a fishing ban over areas that extend far beyond China’s legitimate maritime entitlements under the 1982 Unclos.”

The declaration of a moratorium on fishing that extends to the WPS “has no basis in law, and undermines the mutual trust, confidence, and respect that should underpin bilateral relations, as affirmed most recently by President Rodrigo Duterte and [Chinese] President Xi Jinping during their tele-summit on April 8, 2022,” it said.

The Philippines called on China to comply with its obligations under international law, particularly the 1982 Unclos and the final and binding Award on the SCS Arbitration.

Manila also asked Beijing to “cease and desist from the conduct of illegal actions that violate the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its maritime zones; and adhere to its commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties” in the SCS.

On April 13, 2022, the DFA summoned a senior official from the Chinese Embassy over the alleged “harassment” by a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) ship of a Taiwanese-manned research vessel in the West Philippine Sea in March, DFA Deputy Assistant Secretary Gonar Musor said in a text message.

The DFA sent a senior embassy official to protest the CCG harassment of the research vessel RV Legend, which had been conducting “an authorized marine scientific research activity, with Philippine scientists on board.”

In a statement late Monday night, the department said it “takes appropriate diplomatic action for violations of Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights within our maritime jurisdiction.”

“On the presence of foreign Coast Guard vessels around Reed Bank, in the vicinity of the Philippine-approved activities around SC 75 and SC 72, as well as in the vicinity of the approved joint Marine Scientific Research led by the UP NIGS (University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences), [such presence is] not consistent with an innocent passage and [is a clear violation] of Philippine maritime jurisdiction where only the Philippine government has the mandate of enforcement,” the DFA added.

“We assure the Filipino people that the role of the DFA on upholding Philippine interests and protecting and preserving national security and territorial integrity will remain firm,” it said.

The DFA pointed out that “only the Philippine Coast Guard has enforcement jurisdiction over these waters.”

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) reported that the RV Legend, a research vessel belonging to the Taiwan Ocean Research Institute, left Taiwan on March 13 and sailed toward the Philippines.

The vessel’s schedule showed that it was “booked to conduct research in the Philippines as part of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, an initiative of President Tsai Ing-wen to enhance relations with South and Southeast Asian Nations,” the AMTI said.

It added that as reported by the Associated Press, the research trip was part of a joint project of the UP NIGS and the National Central University in Taiwan that aims to map geologic features that could trigger earthquakes and tsunamis.

The RV Legend reached Babuyan Islands in the WPS on May 23 and began to conduct hydrographic surveys.

The Chinese Coast Guard vessel 5203, however, “began shadowing” the research ship on March 24 and continued to tail it until April 9 after the ship returned to Taiwan.

The DFA said, “illegal activities around Ayungin Shoal are subject of diplomatic protests, in the exercise of the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction over Ayungin Shoal, which forms part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines as affirmed by the 2016 Award on the SCS arbitration.”

“The presence of foreign vessels following tracks that are neither continuous nor expeditious, that are not consistent with Article 19 of Unclos on innocent passage, [is] against the interests of the Philippines,” it noted.

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