MANILA - A 3-month fishing moratorium is imposed by China annually in parts of South China Sea to assert administrative control of the disputed waters, an analyst said Thursday.
Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Chinese marine scientists may argue the ban was necessary to stop the impending collapse of fish stock.
"The South China Sea is grossly overfished and it is devastating the marine environment," he told ANC.
"But I don't think that that's what motivates Xi Jinping and leadership in places like Hainan who are actually in charge of their citizens in the South China Sea."
"For them, this is about asserting Chinese administrative control and so, they are happy to turn a blind eye to Chinese poachers. The point is to assert that these are Chinese waters and stop Filipino and Vietnamese fishermen from operating on them," he added.
Poling warned Beijing could de facto administer the moratorium if no country opposed it.
"Legally, it also matters more because now if one doesn't actually protest the ban, China has the ability to de facto administer it," he said. "China will be able to say that Manila acceded, Manila by not objecting in essence recognized it."
The fishing moratorium imposed by China since 1999 runs from May 1 to Aug. 16 and covers the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone.
The Philippine government has filed a diplomatic protest against the unilateral ban, saying it does not recognize such moratorium.
"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 Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Under the 2016 UN ruling that invalidated Beijing's claims in the South China Sea, 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 DFA added.