AFP, PCG urge Filipino fishermen to continue fishing activities in WPS

MANILA. Philippine Coast Guard personnel from BRP Malabrigo transports supplies to the Philippine-claimed West York Island, locally known as Likas island at the South China Sea on Thursday April 20, 2023. (AP)
MANILA. Philippine Coast Guard personnel from BRP Malabrigo transports supplies to the Philippine-claimed West York Island, locally known as Likas island at the South China Sea on Thursday April 20, 2023. (AP)

ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Romeo Brawner Jr. urged Filipino fishermen to continue their normal fishing activities in the waters off the West Philippine Sea (WPS) amid the threat of China to arrest those “trespassing” in the area.

In an interview with reporters, Brawner said Filipino fishermen have nothing to worry about as he assured them that the AFP, the Philippine Coast Guard, and other concerned government agencies are always ready to protect them.

“Go ahead and fish, yan naman ang lagi kong sinasabi for them not to be afraid and to just go ahead with their normal activities na mangisda sa ating exclusive economic zone (EEZ) remember atin itong EEZ we have the right to exploit the resources in the area,” (AFP) chief of staff General Romeo Brawner Jr. said.

(Go ahead and fish; that's what I always tell them. They shouldn't be afraid and should continue with their normal activities of fishing in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Remember, this EEZ is ours, and we have the right to exploit the resources in the area.)

“Kaya hindi dapat matakot ang ating mga mangingisda anyway anjan po ang inyong AFP, Philippine Navy at Coast Guard, marami tayong pinaguusapan ngayon na hakbangin na ating gagawin in order for us to protect our fishermen,” he added.

(So our fishermen shouldn't be afraid. Anyway, your AFP, Philippine Navy, and Coast Guard are there. We are currently discussing many measures that we will take in order to protect our fishermen.)

The Chinese government earlier said it would impose its Coast Guard law ordering the arrest of foreign nationals perceived to be ‘trespassing’ in the WPS starting June 15. Arrested folks will be detained for up to 60 days without trial.

China refused to recognize the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands which affirms the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the WPS.

In a separate statement, AFP chief of the Public Affairs Office (PAO) Colonel Xerxes Trinidad China's so-called anti-trespassing policy undermines the rule of law and international norms that govern maritime conduct as he maintained that the Philippines will not be deterred nor intimidated.

“The presence and actions of its vessels in our waters are illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive,” he said.

“The AFP remains steadfast in our mission to protect our nation's rights and ensure the safety of our personnel and citizens in the West Philippine Sea. We will continue our maritime patrols in areas within the Philippines' jurisdiction,” he added.

The PCG also maintained that China’s policy is baseless.

PCG Commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan also assured that measures are in place in case China proceeds to arrest Filipino fishermen including the monitoring of their routes to easily identify their whereabouts.

Meanwhile, members of Group of Seven (G7) countries which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States issued a joint statement on Saturday, June 15, 2024, expressing serious concern and opposition to China’s actions in the South China Sea (WPS).

“We continue opposing China’s dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia in the South China Sea and its repeated obstruction of countries’ high seas freedom of navigation,” the statement reads.

The G7 noted that China’s claims of almost the entire WPS have no legal basis and that it should stop its militarization, and coercive and intimidation activities in the area.

“We re-emphasize the universal and unified character of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and reaffirm UNCLOS’ important role in setting out the legal framework that governs all activities in the oceans and the seas,” they said.

“We reiterate that the award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal on 12 July 2016 is a significant milestone, which is legally binding upon the parties to those proceedings, and a useful basis for peacefully resolving disputes between the parties,” they added.

National Security Adviser Secretary Eduardo Año welcomed the statement of the G7 which he said is a “significant affirmation” of the principles of international law and the rules-based international order.

“We appreciate the G7's explicit condemnation of the increasing use of dangerous maneuvers and water cannons against Philippine vessels. This acknowledgment underscores the international community's recognition of the threats faced by our nation and reaffirms the importance of upholding the rule of law in maritime disputes,” Año said.

Over the past years, Chinese authorities have been harassing Philippine vessels patrolling in the WPS, oftentimes conducting dangerous maneuvers and water cannoning which in several times resulted in damage to the country’s ships as well as injury to Filipino personnel. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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