MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday said the Philippine government will not recognize the fishing ban that China will impose over the South China Sea for two and a half months.
DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario explained the Philippines will not follow the ban because it has sovereign rights over a portion of the waters where China plans to impose the ban.
However, del Rosario said the Philippines may also impose a similar ban given the depletion of marine resources in its territorial waters.
“Our position is we do not recognize China’s fishing ban in as much as portions of the ban encompass our EEZ (exclusive economic zone). But President [Aquino] has decided that, in view of the accelerated depletion of our marine resources, it would be advisable for us to issue our own fishing ban for a period of time to replenish our fish stock,” del Rosario said in a statement.
China's state-owned Xinhua News Agency on Sunday reported that the fishing ban, which will run from May 16 until August 1, covers the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which China calls Huangyan Island and the Philippines recognizes as Panatag Shoal.
The disputed shoal is located 124 nautical miles from the Philippines’ Zambales province, and lies more than 500 nautical miles from the nearest China port of Hainan.
China noted it has been annually practicing the fishing ban since 1999 to protect marine resources.
The ban “will be imposed in areas north of the 12 degrees north latitude - which includes Huangyan Island but excludes most of the 820,000 square-km Nansha Islands.”
Xinhua also reported that violators of the ban will have their catch and boats confiscated, fishing licences revoked, and be fined up to 50,000 yuan ($7,936).
The announcement of the summer fishing ban came amid the rising tension between the Philippines and China over Scarborough Shoal.
Filipino and Chinese vessels remain in a standoff in the disputed waters.
Despite the pronouncement of resistance against the ban, DFA spokesperson Raul Fernandez said the Philippines is still willing to hold diplomatic talks with the Chinese government to settle the dispute, which has been running for over a month.
“Yung ating diplomatic track ay nandoon pa din, and we are hoping China would respond positively sa diplomatic initiatives natin,” Fernandez told radio dzMM.
The Philippine government has been insisting that Panatag Shoal is well within that 200-nautical miles exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).