‘Chinese have no business fishing’ in the Philippines’ EEZ, says ex- SolGen
MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese “have no business” fishing in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay made this assertion Monday, following the reported incident involving a Chinese vessel ramming an anchored Filipino boat at Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea and abandoning the 22 Filipino fishermen there last June 9.
The gas-rich Recto Bank is within the Philippines’ EEZ.
“The incident happened in Reed Bank. Reed Bank is a fully-submerged area and based on the decision in Philippines versus China, which we won, there are no overlapping entitlements between the Philippines and China over the Reed Bank,” Hilbay said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Monday.
“Because the Reed Bank is within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), we’re the only ones who have the right to fish there. And so the Chinese have no business fishing in our exclusive economic zone,” he added.
Hilbay was referring to the arbitration case won by the Philippines against China in July 2016. Hilbay, as Solicitor General during the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III, was among those who led the country’s legal team when the case was being tackled at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands.
The arbitration court invalidated China’s nine-dash line, which claims almost all of South China Sea, including waters within EEZ of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines (West Philippine Sea), Vietnam, and Taiwan.
Chinese fishermen liable
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has strongly condemned what he described as a “cowardly action” of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew after it abandoned the Filipino fishermen in the open sea early this week.
But the Chinese Embassy in Manila has denied there had been an incident of a “hit-and-run” and claimed the Chinese fishing vessel was suddenly “besieged” by seven or eight Philippine fishing boats. It also claimed the Chinese vessel’s “steel cable on the lighting grid” bumped into the Philippine boat’s pilothouse during its evacuation.
Hilbay nevertheless said the Chinese vessel involved in the June 9 incident should be held accountable for the reported ramming – intentional or not.
“The Filipino vessel was anchored, it was anchored on Philippine waters. Under the Philippine Constitution, the waters around and surrounding the Philippine archipelago are considered Philippine waters, and so the Filipinos had every right to be where they were, they were anchored, they were safe, and the ramming by the Chinese vessel of the Filipino vessel was of course… creates obligation on the part of the Chinese vessel,” he said.
“My understanding is that the Chinese vessel is a private vessel, and so they are accountable for what they have done, whether or not it was intentional… you can set that aside because they left the Filipinos on their own, only to be saved by the Vietnamese,” he added. (Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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