Navy assures protection of Filipino fishermen in WPS

MANILA. In this file photo, BRP Malapascua monitored 18 Chinese maritime militia vessels anchored off Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, said the Philippine Coast Guard.
MANILA. In this file photo, BRP Malapascua monitored 18 Chinese maritime militia vessels anchored off Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, said the Philippine Coast Guard.Photo from PCG

THE Philippine Navy has assured to protect Filipino fishermen amid the imposition of a unilateral fishing ban by China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a press conference on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, Philippine Navy spokesperson Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad urged Filipino fishermen to continue fishing in the WPS.

“Huwag kayo matakot, magpatuloy lang kayo (Don’t be afraid, just continue what you’re doing). The AFP and the entire government are behind you,” he said.

“China is out of tune, out of step, out of their minds,” he added.

As reported, the Chinese government has ordered the arrest of foreign nationals perceived to be “trespassing” in the WPS by June 15.

China, which is claiming sovereignty over almost the entire WPS, also imposed a fishing ban in the territory from May 1 to September 16.

In a television interview, Pamalakaya Pilipinas national vice chairperson Ronnel Arambulo said some of their members, with around 20 small boats, will conduct collective fishing expeditions in the WPS to assert their rights in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

It will venture 20 to 30 nautical miles from Masinloc town in Zambales.

“There is no better way to assert fishing rights in our exclusive economic zone than to conduct a collective economic activity,” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said it does not recognize China’s four-month fishing ban, noting that aside from violating international law, it undermines the Philippines’ sovereignty and maritime rights.

In an interview in Brunei, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that China’s threat to detain “trespassers” in the WPS is an act of escalation and a worrisome development.

Marcos said the imposition of the fishing ban is “just an extension again of their claim that this is all the maritime territory of China.”

“So, it’s nothing new,” he said.

“There are sometimes fishing bans because it’s the season. And this is something that we have actually agreed upon before,” he added.

Marcos said there are some sorts of a middle ground with China to ensure peace and stability in the WPS.

“Yes, of course, there are,” Marcos responded when asked if there are meetings or backchannel efforts to resolve WPS issues.

The chief executive said the government is exhausting all remedies to bring progress in resolving the issues to stop China’s aggressive actions and to allow Filipinos to fish in WPS.

“I’ve said it many times. You should try everything. You don’t know what effort is going to be successful. So, as any point of contact that I can establish I will use it. And at every level, at the leaders’ level, at the ministerial, sub-ministerial, private,” he said.

“As long as it gives us, brings us progress in terms of resolving these. And you know, first of all, number one, to stop the aggressive actions such as water-cannoning and lasers and barrier putting etcetera. And secondly, allowing our fishermen to fish. Let’s start with that,” he added.

However, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the Philippines should not worry about the policy on the detention of “trespassers” as long as there is no illegal behavior.

“The regulations are rolled out by China Coast Guard to standardize the administrative law enforcement procedures of Coast Guard agencies and better uphold order at sea. It is consistent with universal practices. Individuals and entities have no need for concern as long as they have not done anything illicit,” he said.

Mao said “it is the Philippines, not China, that has escalated the situation and made repeated provocations in the South China Sea.”

“China’s door of dialogue and communication with the Philippines remains open, but it’s important to note that dialogue requires sincerity and whatever is agreed in dialogue must be acted upon, rather than talking about the need for dialogue while continuing to make provocations,” he added. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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