Filipino fishermen are free to go about their business as long as they stay within the delineated limits of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and disregard any law promulgated by China which stops them from doing so.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin called on fishermen not to mind laws passed by Beijing (i.e. the Chinese coast guard law which authorizes its patrol ships to open fire on supposed intruders inside their claimed territorial waters in the West Philippine Sea) as these don’t apply to them.
Then there is the annual fishing ban from May 1 to August 16 imposed by China purportedly to promote sustainable marine fishery and improve marine ecology.
The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea has announced this unilateral ban does not apply to local fishermen who are fishing within the country’s EEZ.
Vietnam has likewise rejected the Chinese fishing ban saying it has legal rights over the waters identified under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Locsin was quoted last week as saying in his Twitter post that China, like the Philippines, can write any law (it wants) but this is only valid within their borders.
Locsin’s aggressive stance against unceasing Chinese encroachment inside the Philippines’ EEZ has elicited growing support from the Lower House, with lawmakers urging the Duterte government to take more concrete steps to secure the maritime borders.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House committee on strategic intelligence, had expressed interest in a previous proposal of the military to set up forward operating bases in certain areas in the WPS, Subic Bay and Palawan.
“We want the Philippine Navy positioned to prevent China from asserting administrative control over any reefs, rocks or lagoons within our 200-nautical mile EEZ,” he said in a statement released to media.
Pimentel said the military should avoid a repeat of events in 2012 where China managed to occupy Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc without the Aquino government even lifting a finger to prevent this from happening.
Tensions in the WPS erupted last March after an intrepid ABS-CBN reporter exposed to the world the presence of hundreds of Chinese militia vessels anchored inside Philippine waters, and refusing to leave despite dozens of diplomatic protests filed by the DFA.
Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler