Philippines files diplomatic protest over China's fishing ban in West PH Sea

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 31 2022 05:51 PM

A fisherman mends his net after arriving from early morning fishing off the coast of Zambales on April 5, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file
A fisherman mends his net after arriving from early morning fishing off the coast of Zambales on April 5, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA — The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest over China's fishing ban in areas of the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

The DFA issued a diplomatic note protesting the unilateral ban, which China is imposing until August.

The DFA said it filed a protest because China's ban covers areas "over which the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction."

Citing the 2016 Hague ruling, the DFA said that the fishing moratorium is being implemented "without exception for areas of South China Sea falling within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and without limiting the auditorium to Chinese flagged vessels."

The DFA said the fishing ban is a breach of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) "with respect to the Philippines' sovereign rights over the living resources of its exclusive economic zone."

"The declaration of a moratorium on fishing that extends to the West Philippine Sea has no basis in law, and undermines the mutual trust, confidence, and respect that should underpin bilateral relations, as affirmed most recently by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and President Xi Jinping during their Telesummit on 08 April 2022," the DFA said in its statement. 

"The Philippines calls on China to comply with its obligations under international law, particularly the 1982 UNCLOS and the final and binding Award on the South China Sea Arbitration; cease and desist from the conduct of illegal actions that violate the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction in its maritime zones; and adhere to its commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea," it added.

China enforces a 3-month fishing ban in parts of the West Philippine Sea every year.

When it was imposed in 2021, Malacañang told Filipino fishermen to stay in their traditional fishing grounds, as the law of other countries has no "extra-territorial application."

Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative's (AMTI) Greg Poling earlier said that the fishing ban is China's way to assert administrative control of the disputed waters. 

AMTI recently reported several incidents of Chinese "shadowing" and interference on Filipino government vessels in parts of the West Philippine Sea, including a research vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

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