Respect PH justice system, China urged
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines on Friday called on China to respect the country’s judicial system as it asserted its sovereign right to enforce the country’s laws and penalize violators caught poaching within its waters, an offense that nine Chinese fishermen were found guilty of committing earlier this week.
“We call on China to respect the court decision,” said Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
“The nine fishermen have already undergone the legal processes and the penalties imposed on them were a decision made by our judiciary, which is a separate but equal branch of our government, so we should respect the court’s decision,” he told a press briefing yesterday.
Jose made the call when asked to comment on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement on Wednesday demanding the unconditional release of its nine fishermen, who were found guilty of poaching and catching endangered sea turtles at the Hasa-Hasa (Half-Moon) Shoal in April.
China has not made such demand formal through diplomatic channels, Jose said.
On Monday, the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court ordered each of the fishermen to pay P4.4 million in fines for taking wildlife in the shoal off Palawan, located in the Spratlys in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The Chinese nationals would only be allowed to leave the country upon settlement of the fines, Malacañang earlier said.
“On the part of the DFA, we have stated before that this is a purely law-enforcement matter and our maritime police were only applying our fisheries code in that part of our sea,” said Jose.
He reiterated the Philippines’ ownership of the shoal where the Chinese fishermen were apprehended, amid China’s assertions that the territory was under its “indisputable sovereignty.”
“The place where they were apprehended is part of our continental shelf, so the Philippines has the exclusive rights and sovereign rights and jurisdiction to explore the resources there and to implement our laws,” said the official.
He said the incident underscored the need for the clarification of the rightful exclusive economic zones (EEZ) between the Philippines and China, as the country’s arbitration case before the United Nations seeks to accomplish.
The pending arbitration bid aims to stop Chinese incursions into the country’s established EEZ. China has refused to take part in the proceedings, still urging its historical right to territories in the contested waters.
“This only highlights the importance of the arbitration case that we filed against China before the arbitral tribunal. Because once we are clear as to the extent of our EEZs, then incidents like this would be avoided wherein we’d be intruding into each others’ EEZ,” said Jose.