PAMPANGA, Philippines – Philippine military chief General Emmanuel Bautista told local fishermen to ignore China's new fishing rules requiring foreigners to seek its permission to fish in the disputed South China Sea.
"We will ignore the fisheries law of China.... Our fishermen should go on fishing. They should go on with their lives," Bautista told reporters on Wednesday, January 15, during a visit to this province.
"Should we give in to threats, intimidation, terror, violence of any armed group? We should stand up for our rights," Bautista added. (READ: PH slams China law on fishing boats)
The Philippine government has denounced the new rules imposed by China, saying they reinforce "China's expansive claim” under the 9-dash line.
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.
The Philippine military, one of the weakest in Asia, is acquiring new navy ships and aircraft as the tension with China continues to escalate. Bautista said they were able to monitor Chinese ships in the Philippine territory but he refused to give details.
In 2012, the two countries were engaged in a months-long naval standoff over the Panatag Shoal, a rocky sandbar off the coast of Zambales.
Bautista announced they want to acquire 2 more navy ships from treaty ally US to boost its maritime protection. He said at least 6 frigates are needed to effectively guard the country's long coastline.
The country has two warships – BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz – acquired through the US Excess Defense Article and a military assistance program.
Outside the US assistance, the Philippines is also acquiring 2 new frigates for P18 billion. The bidding process is ongoing.
"Within the last year, we realized that there is a real threat out there in terms of securing, defending our territory," Bautista said. US Secretary of State John Kerry recently announced they are giving fresh military assistance to the Philippines.
The Philippines position is to pursue a peaceful resolution of the maritime dispute through an arbitration case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). But Bautista said the military is prepared for "any eventuality."
"We submit to the peaceful resolution of the conflict without saying that we will not prepare for any contingency, any eventuality. This is why we have the AFP modernization program to be able to achieve minimum credible deterrence," Bautista said. – Rappler.com