Aquino fears China fishing ban in disputed sea

MANILA, Philippines – Saying this is a global problem, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, April 17, said he fears the fishing ban that China will enforce in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). 

In an interview with reporters in Tarlac City, Aquino pointed out that the threat of the fishing ban came before China built artificial islands in the contested waters. (READ: China reclamation destroys 300 acres of corals – PH

"Dati sinabihan tayo na mayroong silang mga patakaran, lalo na sa fishing, na hindi lang nila ini-enforce. Kapag in-enforce nila, parang kailangang humingi na tayo ng permiso para mangisda sa ating exclusive economic zone," Aquino said.

(Before, we were told that they have these regulations, especially on fishing, that they just haven't enforced. Once they enforce these, it looks like we'll need to seek their permission so we can fish in our exclusive economic zone.)

The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is an area 200 nautical miles from a coastal state's baselines or "edges," within which the state has the exclusive right to explore and exploit marine resources.

The Philippines asserts its sovereign rights over waters within its EEZ. 

China, on the other hand, believes it owns virtually the entire South China Sea. The disputed sea is covered by its 9-dash line, a demarcation that the Philippines says is baseless under international law.

The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has protested the 9-dash line and one of its offshoots, a fisheries law.

This law requires foreigners to seek China's permission to fish in the South China Sea. 

"This development escalates tensions, unnecessarily complicates the situation in the South China Sea, and threatens the peace and stability of the region," the DFA said in a statement against China's fisheries law in January 2014. 

'Problem of all'

These actions in the disputed waters – most recently as well, China's reclamation activities – have fueled worries among other countries. 

Foreign ministers from the world's 7 most industrialized countries, for one, slammed China's artificial islands in the South China Sea.

The DFA on Thursday evening, April 16, welcomed the statement from the Group of Seven or G7.

The declaration was signed on Wednesday, April 15, by foreign ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the High Representative of the European Union.

US President Barack Obama also warned China not to "elbow aside" countries it is in conflict with in the South China Sea, such as the Philippines. 

Aquino on Friday hailed these countries' support for the Philippines in the maritime dispute. 

"'Yung pagsasalita ng mga ibang bansa, lalo na ‘yung hindi talaga nandito sa ating lugar, kumikilala doon sa bigat ng problema na problema ng lahat," the Philippine President said. (The statements of other countries, especially those not from our region, recognize the weight of this problem that is the problem of all.)

He stressed, in particular, that the South China Sea dispute is not only a regional, but a global problem. 

Up to 40% of global trade, after all, passes through these disputed waters. – 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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