Philippines says Filipino fishermen not covered by China fishing ban

The Philippines has encouraged Filipino fishermen to continue their activities in the West Philippine Sea, as it reiterated that they are not covered by China’s annual fishing ban in the area.

“This fishing ban does not apply to our fishermen and the NTF-WPS opposes China’s imposition of the same over the areas within the territory and jurisdiction of the Philippines," the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said in a statement on Tuesday night, May 4.

“The NTF-WPS reiterates that our fisherfolk are encouraged to go out and fish in our waters in the WPS," it added.

The task force said it "noted" China’s "unilateral fishing ban on Chinese fishing vessels in the areas of the South China Sea north of the 12th parallel" from May 1 to August 16, 2021.

China has been imposing the fishing ban since 1999.

In its statement, the task force also reported Chinese incursions in Philippine waters in late April, and how the Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources shooed away these vessels.

“The Philippines is not deterred from defending our national interest, patrimony, and our dignity as a people with all that we have,” it said.

Under the 1982 United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines has sovereign rights over features located within its exclusive economic zone or 12 to 200 nautical miles from the baseline of its territorial waters. 

The international law was reaffirmed by the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands, which favored all the claims of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea. 

Despite this favorable ruling, Chinese vessels and fishermen have continued to poach in Philippine waters as China refused to recognize both the arbitration process and the verdict.

The AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, a national group of science and technology professionals, said the fishing industry might collapse if China continues its illegal presence in the West Philippine Sea.

On April 30, Pamalakaya, the national federation of fisherfolk organizations in the Philippines, sent petitions calling the United Nations to declare China's Coast Guard Law null and void, pursue the demilitarization of the West Philippine Sea, and address the impact of the Chinese incursions on food security. – Rappler.com