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DFA tells China: Stay away from Philippine exclusive economic zone

/ 05:48 PM July 16, 2012

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday said that it would file a protest against China should its big fleet of 30 Chinese fishing vessels that arrived in the Spratlys Islands on Sunday intrude into the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

“If they intrude into our EEZ, we will file a protest,” Raul Hernandez, DFA spokesperson said in an interview with reporters.

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Hernandez was reacting to reports from Chinese state media saying that a 30-vessel fishing fleet was sent to the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Xinhua news agency reported that the fishing vessels arrived near the Yongshu Reef Sunday afternoon after setting off from the Chinese province of Hainan Thursday.

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The Xinhua report said that fishing vessels from China regularly travelled to the Spratlys but that the fleet was the largest ever launched from the province.

Hernandez said that the DFA would still have to verify the reports, but that “we require China to respect the sovereign rights of the Philippines over the resources within our EEZ.”

Hernandez said that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) only the Philippines had the “sovereign rights to exploit, explore and to manage the resources in our EEZ.”

“Those 30 fishing vessels should not go fishing in our EEZ and therefore the owners or the state which has jurisdiction over those vessels should have due regard to the rights and duties of the Philippines being a coastal state,” Hernandez added.

The Spratlys Islands, which the Chinese call Nansha, is a string of atolls and islands in the West Philippine Sea believed to be rich in mineral deposits. The islands are claimed in whole or in parts by the Philippines and China, along with Taiwan and other Southeast Asian countries of Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

The Chinese Embassy in Makati City has yet to comment on the same reports.

Meanwhile, when asked why the Philippines was not filing a protest against China over the incident that happened in Hasa Hasa Shoal (which the Chinese calls Half Moon Shoal) in the Spratly Islands, Hernandez said that based from how they looked at the situation, it appeared that the warship just had an accident in that area while it was passing through, and had no other ill-intentions.

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“We were looking at it and from what appears that the frigate, the warship, had an accident in that area, and mukhang wala namang other intention ano (and it looked like there was no other intention) but that they were just passing through and while they were doing this based on the concept of freedom of navigation ay nagkaroon nga ng accident sumadsad sila sa mga bato doon sa Hasa Hasa Shoal (there was an accident and they hit the rocks there un Hasa Hasa Shoal),” Hernandez said.

A Chinese naval frigate was stuck in Hasa Hasa Shoal Wednesday while patrolling disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). It was successfully extricated by Chinese authorities on Sunday and was on its ways back to China.

The said shoal is located 60 nautical miles from the western Philippine island of Palawan, well within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Hernandez clarified that under the UNCLOS, foreign vessels were allowed to have free passage in the EEZ of coastal states provided that their passage should not involve “illegal activities.”

“Under the provisions on UNCLOS, foreign vessels are allowed to have free passage in the EEZ of coastal states and that passage should be continuous and also expeditious and that in their passage they should not undertake any illegal activities. So in that way, they were doing this under the concept of freedom navigation,” Hernandez said.

When asked about his reactions to reports saying Taiwan was considering an extension of its runway in the Spratlys Islands, Hernandez said that they would deal with the issue “peacefully, and multilaterally under the One China Policy.”

“Well like other nations or many nations in the region we have only One China Policy and we want to deal with the issue peacefully and on a multilateral basis and we hope that the claimants states in the West Philippine Sea is able to address this issue multilaterally and peacefully and diplomatically,” he said.

In a report released by Agence France-Presse, it said the Liberty Times reported that the said project, if approved, would extend by 500 meters (1,640 feet) the runway on Taiping Island, the largest in the disputed waters and some 860 miles (1,376 kilometers) from Taiwan, the Liberty Times said.

Hernandez also updated reporters on the latest in Scarborough Shoal, saying that as of July 13, Friday, a Philippine Coast Guard aerial survey identified about three Chinese government vessels and about six fishing vessels outside the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal, while about two speed boats and 17 dinghies were spotted inside the lagoon. Jerry E. Esplanada, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Originally posted at 05:26 pm | Monday, July 16, 2012

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TAGS: China, Department of Foreign Affairs, Diplomacy, exclusive economic zones, Foreign Affairs & International Relations, geopolitics, Global Nation, Philippines, Scarborough Shoal, South China Sea, Spratly Islands, territorial disputes, Territories, West Philippine Sea
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