PH slams China for ramming vessels, collecting clams

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) filed two protest notes against China for ramming 3 Filipino vessels and collecting giant clams in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The DFA protested these incidents at the contested Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, also known in the Philippines as Bajo de Masinloc, through notes that it handed to Chinese Embassy representatives on Wednesday, February 4.

In a statement, the DFA said it received a report from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) “that 3 Philippine-flagged fishing vessels, namely F/V OG Barbie, F/V Ocean Glory 2, and F/V Ana Marie, were intentionally rammed by Chinese Coast Guard Vessel 3412 on January 29, 2015 in Bajo de Masinloc.”

The DFA said this damaged the vessels and endangered the lives of Filipino fishermen.

“Philippine fishing vessels have been routinely, continuously, peacefully, and sustainably fishing in the Philippines’ Bajo de Masinloc and the Philippines strongly protested China’s continuing actions to harass and prevent Filipino fishermen from legitimately pursuing their livelihood in that area,” the DFA said.

'Destructive, illegal activity'

The PCG “also reported that on January 22, 2015, at least 24 Chinese utility boats were seen collecting giant clams in the lagoon of Bajo de Masinloc,” the DFA said. It added that Chinese fishing vessels “were likewise spotted transporting collected giant clams to other CFVs.”

The DFA said: “The Philippines strongly protested this destructive and illegal activity. The act of harvesting giant clams, which are among the most endangered marine species, entails the crushing and destruction of surrounding corals which result in the permanent destruction of the reef itself.”

“China’s toleration of, and active support for, the environmentally harmful fishing practices by its nationals at Bajo de Masinloc constitute breaches of its obligations under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora,” the DFA added.

These protest notes come after the Philippines urged foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to express concern over another “critical issue in our backyard”: China's land reclamation in the South China Sea.

The Philippines asserts that the land reclamation disrupts the status quo in the South China Sea as Manila awaits the ruling on the historic case it filed against Beijing. – Rappler.com