Palace: Pinoys can fish in West Philippine Sea

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Saturday, January 11, 2014


MANILA -- Malacañang on Saturday assured protection of local fishermen who will go fishing in the West Philippine Sea amid China's new regulations.

In an interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that Filipino fishermen can continue fishing in the country's 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EZZ) as well as on high seas.

"You know, as the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) said, you have the right to fish, all states, in the high seas. Kasama po sa atin iyan. No one under customary international law, not a single state can subject the high seas to its sovereignty," she said.

But Valte said the Palace supports the DFA position to still clarify with China its new fishing rules in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea, which it has been claiming wholly.

The new set of rules, which took effect on January 1, requires foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval from authorities to enter the disputed waters where China supposedly has jurisdiction.

"We want to get a clarification just because everyone acknowledges that it’s a sensitive situation and we do not want to be accused of raising tensions. So we want to be careful about this and we want to make sure that we are acting accordingly on the correct information," Valte said, adding Philippine Ambassador to China Erlinda Basilio will speak to her counterpart regarding China's fishing regulation.

Some members of the Congress advised the Aquino administration to just ignore the rules.

Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said recognizing the fisheries law passed by the Hainan Provincial People’s Congress would mean that the government has given up its claim on the resource-rich sea.

"Recognizing this law would be an implicit admission that we are recognizing the sovereign rights of China over these disputed waters and therefore would be inconsistent with our claim of ownership," said Barzaga, a member of the House committee on foreign affairs.

"We should completely ignore it. To recognize it will render all our ongoing legal contests moot and academic. We will effectively be giving up our sovereign rights over our territories. We cannot allow that," said Marikina City Representative Miro Quimbo.

For his part, Parañaque City Representative Gus Tambunting said the Philippines is not bound by the rules that are “definitely contrary to international law.”

The DFA also added that the development escalates tension and threatens the peace and stability of the region.

"This new law reinforces China’s expansive claim under the nine-dash line. It is a gross violation of international law, particularly Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), and is contrary to the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea," the DFA said.

The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam are also claiming parts of the sea, which is rich in oil and marine resources.

The claimant countries and even the United States have been opposing the new Chinese fishing restrictions in the area and considered such action as provocative and dangerous. [READ: Philippines, Vietnam condemn China's fishing law]

But China said the fishing regulation had been in place since 1993 and Hainan’s legislature only made an amendment to its implementing rules.

“The current version is the second amendment, which aims to strengthen the efforts to protect, reproduce, explore and rationally utilize fishery resources, to safeguard the legitimate rights of fishermen, to ensure quality and safety of aquatic products, to promote sustainable development of fishery industry, and to protect fishery resources and eco-environment,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.

The Philippines brought the territorial spat to the United Nations for arbitration last year, which China opposed. (Kathrina Alvarez/Virgil Lopez/SDR/Sunnex)

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