By Alyssa Nicole O. Tan, Reporter
THE PHILIPPINES on Monday filed a diplomatic protest against China for its unilateral imposition of a three-and-half-month fishing ban in some areas of the South China Sea.
The Philippines has “sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction” over the disputed areas of the waterway, its Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a diplomatic note dated May 30, citing the country’s 2016 arbitral award by a United Nations (UN)-backed tribunal that invalidated China’s claim to more than 80% of the sea.
The fishing ban is expected to last until Aug. 16.
The South China Sea, a key global shipping route, is subject to overlapping territorial claims involving China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
“The DFA reiterated its continuing protest of China’s annual practice of declaring a fishing ban over areas that extend far beyond China’s legitimate maritime entitlements under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” it said in a statement on Monday night.
“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 April 8,” it added.
The Philippines asked China to comply with international law and stop illegal actions that violate Philippine sovereignty and jurisdiction in its maritime zones. China should likewise adhere to its commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, it added.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has summoned a senior Chinese Embassy official as it accused Beijing of harassing a research vessel near the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.
“The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs takes appropriate diplomatic action for violations of Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights within our maritime jurisdiction,” the agency said in a statement on Monday night.
The shoal, which the Philippines calls Ayungin, forms part of its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, DFA said, citing a 2016 arbitral award by a United Nations-backed tribunal against China.
The Philippines issued the summons on April 13 to protest the alleged bullying of RV Legend, which was conducting an authorized marine scientific research activity, by a Chinese vessel, Foreign Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary Gonar B. Musor told reporters via WhatsApp.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately reply to a mobile phone message seeking comment.
The US-based research organization Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said China’s coast guard and militia vessels have harassed Filipino ships in its exclusive economic zone three times in the past two months.
The incidents occurred near Reed Bank, where there were oil exploration activities led by Philippine companies and marine scientific research by the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences.
AMTI has said the incidents “demonstrate Beijing’s determination to control maritime activity within the nine-dash line, and to create a high risk of collisions at sea to do so.”
DFA said these “are not consistent with innocent passage and are clear violations” of Philippine maritime jurisdiction. It was reviewing the incidents so it could file a diplomatic protest, it added.
The agency said the Philippine Coast Guard “has enforcement jurisdiction over these waters. “The presence of foreign vessels following tracks that are neither continuous nor expeditious, that are not consistent with Article 19 of the UNCLOS on innocent passage are against the interests of the Philippines.”
“We assure the Filipino people that the role of the DFA in upholding Philippine interests and protecting and preserving national security and territorial integrity will remain firm.”
In a related development, the Philippines condemned the North Korea’s missile test last week.
DFA said this “undermines the peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula, the entire region and the world.”
“We reiterate our call on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to comply with its international obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and commit to the process of constructive and peaceful dialogue,” it added.
North Korea fired three ballistic missiles toward the Sea of Japan hours after US President Joseph R. Biden left South Korea, the last leg of a five-day tour of the region. US officials had warned that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could hold a nuclear test run while the US president was in the region.
At the end of his trip to Seoul, Mr. Biden said the US was “prepared for anything North Korea does.”