MANILA—The Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday asserted the Philippines' stance against China's annual fishing ban that covers the West Philippine Sea, saying it does not recognize such moratorium.
The fishing moratorium imposed by China runs between May 1 and August 16 and covers areas of the South China Sea, including part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
"As announced by China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the ban covers 'waters north of 12 degrees north latitude' in the South China Sea. These waters include areas over which the Philippines exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction," the DFA said in a statement.
The DFA said that under the UN ruling that invalidated Beijing's claims in the South China Sea in 2016, the fishing ban violates Article 56 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that the Philippines, as the coastal state in the disputed waters, has "sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting conserving and managing the natural resources" of the EEZ.
"The 2016 Arbitral Award also affirmed the traditional and legitimate fishing rights of Filipino fishermen," the foreign office said.
"China's annual fishing moratorium extends far beyond China's legitimate maritime entitlements under UNCLOS and is without basis under international law. China cannot legally impose nor legally enforce such a moratorium in the West Philippine Sea."
The DFA urged China to "desist from any action and activity that infringes on Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, in contravention of international law."
In an online message to reporters, DFA strategic communication and research executive director Ivy Banzon-Abalos said the department has filed a diplomatic protest against China’s fishing ban.
"The fact that it imposes such regulation over an SCS area (north on the 12th parallel) encroaching on PH territory (BdM) and EEZ -- is a violation of PH sovereignty and sovereign rights," she said.
Banzon-Abalos said that with China’s law allowing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels, the moratorium presents a threat to the safety of ordinary Filipino fisherfolk.
"This can curtail and put at risk the legitimate rights of Filipino fishermen to fish in PH territorial waters and EEZ," she said.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon earlier rejected the fishing ban, saying Filipino fishing boats are not covered under this ban, only China's.
"This fishing ban does not apply to our fishermen and the NTF-WPS (National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea) opposes China’s imposition of the same over the areas within the territory and jurisdiction of the Philippines. The NTF-WPS reiterates that our fisherfolk are encouraged to go out and fish in our waters in the WPS," Esperon said in a statement.
Despite the 2016 UN ruling, China has aggressively encroached on reefs and shoals in the South China Sea, including some areas of the West Philippine Sea.
The DFA earlier vowed to file daily protests against the continuing presence of Chinese vessels in the Philippine EEZ.
—With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News