China's new fishing ban places Filipino fishermen's rights in West PH Sea 'at risk' – DFA

Published May 19, 2021, 1:30 AM

by Roy Mabasa

China’s unilateral imposition of a fishing moratorium in the South China Sea under its new coastguard law can curtail and put at risk the legitimate rights of Filipino fishermen to fish in Philippine territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the Philippines does not recognize such act, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday night.

Department of Foreign Affairs (Manila Bulletin)

The DFA made this clarification after the Philippines protested China’s imposition of an annual summer fishing moratorium that takes effect from May 1 to August 16, 2021.

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 fact that it imposes such regulation over an SCS area (north on the 12th parallel) encroaching on Philippine territory (Bajo de Masinloc) and EEZ — is a violation of Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights,” DFA Strategic Communications Executive Director Ivy Banzon-Abalos said.

In the diplomatic protest filed on Monday, the Philippines said that based on Paragraph 716 of the July 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea, Beijing’s promulgation of a fishing moratorium, without exception for areas falling within the Philippines’ EEZ and without limiting the moratorium to Chinese flagged vessels, breached Article 56 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 Philippines maintained that the Arbitral Award rendered by the UN-backed arbitration court in The Hague also affirmed the traditional and legitimate fishing rights of Filipino fishermen.

“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 said.