PH slams China law on fishing boats

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines on Friday, January 10, slammed the new Chinese law that requires foreigners to seek China's permission to fish in the disputed South China Sea.

In a statement, the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it has requested China “to immediately clarify” the new fisheries law that the Hainan Provincial People's Congress issued.

“We are gravely concerned by this new regulation that would require foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval from Chinese regional authorities before fishing or surveying in a large portion of the South China Sea,” the DFA said.

“This development escalates tensions, unnecessarily complicates the situation in the South China Sea, and threatens the peace and stability of the region,” it added.

The Philippines has filed a historic case against China over disputed portions of the sea, which it claims as the West Philippine Sea. (READ: PH lawyer on China: Being 'int'l outlaw' has its price.)

The DFA explained that the new law “reinforces China's expansive claim” under the 9-dash line.

China, on the other hand, defended its move after the US criticized it as "provocative and potentially dangerous."

"We express dissatisfaction and opposition" to the US reaction, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a regular press briefing.

"If someone insists on calling technical revisions to a local fishing regulation that has already been implemented for years a matter of regional tension, a threat to regional stability, then all I can say is, this is either a lack of basic common sense or some ulterior motive," Hua said.

'Gross violation'

China uses the 9-dash line, a demarcation mark, to claim virtually the whole South China Sea.

The 9-dash line overlaps with the Philippines' 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines has the sovereign rights to explore and exploit, and conserve and manage natural resources, among others, within its EEZ.

In its statement, the DFA also said the new regulation “is a gross violation” of international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The law is also “contrary to the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.”

The DFA noted these regulations affect not only the Philippines.

“These regulations seriously violate the freedom of navigation and the right to fish of all states in the high seas, as provided for under UNCLOS. Under customary international law, no state can subject the high seas to its sovereignty,” it said.

The Philippines' Department of National Defense, for its part, said the Philippines is ready to protect its EEZ. 

"All countries are free to enforce fishing rules within their own exclusive economic zone. The defense establishment is ready to assist in enforcing the maritime rules in the Philippines EEZ," DND spokesman Peter Galvez said.

"We will enforce the protection of our resources," he added. 

Claiming airzone, too

Reports on the fisheries law came after the Philippines, as well as the United States and other countries, denounced China's new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea. (READ: Complicating the complex: China's ADIZ.)

The ADIZ requires aircraft to provide their flight plan, declare their nationality, and maintain two-way radio communication. Otherwise they face “emergency defensive measures.”

Denouncing the ADIZ, the DFA said it "transforms the entire airzone into its domestic airspace, infringes on the freedom of flight in international airspace, and compromises the safety of civil aviation and national security of affected states."

"The Philippines calls China to ensure that its ADIZ preserves regional security and stability," the DFA said. 

US Secretary of State John Kerry, for his part, stressed that the zone "should not be implemented and China should refrain from taking similar, unilateral actions elsewhere in the region, and particularly over the South China Sea." (READ: Kerry slams China's moves as passé.)

Kerry said China should “see the wisdom” of subjecting itself to international law. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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