DFA: South China Sea fishing ban 'encroachment'
MANILA, Phiippines (UPDATED) - The reported fishing ban imposed by China on parts of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), including the disputed Scarborough Shoal, is an "encroachment" to Philippine territory, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday, May 14, but President Aquino says it will be beneficial to the shoal's ecosystem.
China reportedly will impose a fishing ban on large parts of the disputed sea, including the disputed island, for 2 1/2 months starting on Wednesday, May 16.
Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert Del Rosario said the Philippines does not recognize the fishing ban.
"The Philippines does not recognize the fishing ban since this is an encroachment of its Exclusive Economic Zone," he said.
"The Philippines will exercise its legitimate and exclusive rights within its EEZ in accordance with UNCLOS," Del Rosario added
"There seems to have been damage already inflicted… we want to help the ecosystem recover, and a ban would help in the recovery process," the President said.
Aquino said he would support the ban, saying the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Coast Guard reported the ecosystem around the shoal have been damaged by fishing activities there.
He said, however, that the Chinese fishermen are the ones getting more resources from the area, compared to Filipino fishermen, and it will be beneficial in the end.
"‘Yung atin pumupunta doon palaot kadalasan bangka… ‘Yung sa kanila ay talagang medyo malalaking fishing trawler, ano, ‘yung kung ikukumpara doon sa atin siguro mahina ‘yung times ten o mga times fifteen ‘yung capacity," he said. (Our boats that go there are small… their boats, on the other hand, are bigger fishing trawlers that, when compared to our boats, are at least 10-15 times larger.)
"So thank you (sa Tsina) kung i-impose nil doon sa mga tao nila, dahil sa totoo lang mas kaunti 'yung ating mangingisdang nagpupunta diyan," he added. (So we thank China if they do impose a fishing ban there on their citizens, because our fishermen rarely venture into that area.)
China has been declaring annual summer fishing bans in the area, said to help protect marine resources there. The Chinese government said it will be imposed on Chinese and foreign fishermen.
Aquino, in addition, said there is some "light" in the talks between the Philippines and China over Scarborough.
He also said the government is waiting for the recommendation of legal experts before they proceed with filing a protest at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas (ITLOS). - Rappler.com