Philippines slams patrols for Chinese fishers
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines on Tuesday denounced China’s announced fishery patrols in the Spratly group of islands, as it asserted its sovereignty over its established maritime boundaries in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also called on China to “act responsibly” amid simmering tensions in the region over the contested waters, the subject of a Philippine arbitration bid in the United Nations.
“We again call on China to respect our territorial sovereignty and exclusive economic zone. The Philippines strongly objects to the Chinese patrols in the Philippines’ maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea,” said DFA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez.
Chinese state media reported over the weekend that the South China Sea Fishery Bureau of China’s Ministry of Agriculture was set to undertake “routine fishery administrative patrols” in the South China Sea this year.
The patrols “will be carried out to better safeguard the legitimate interests of Chinese fishermen,” Chinese media said, quoting Wu Zhuang of the fisheries bureau.
Wu said that China would “speed up the routine patrols” with the growing capacity of Chinese law enforcement authorities.
Hernandez said the move violated China’s international commitments, including its accession to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
The Philippines invoked the Unclos in taking its dispute with China to the UN arbitral tribunal in hopes of stopping Chinese incursions into its waters and invalidating the Chinese “nine-dash line” claim to West Philippine Sea territories.
China has rejected the proceedings, but the DFA said the compulsory process would continue even without China’s participation.
“Such activities (patrols) will not validate the nine-dash line and are contrary to their (China’s) obligation under international law, including the Unclos,” said Hernandez.