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Palace aide says no permit needed to fish in high seas

By: - Day Desk Chief / @umichaelNQ
/ 09:46 PM January 11, 2014

This undated photo handout released by the Kayalaan Municipal office on July 13, 2011 shows the island of Kalayaan, which means “Freedom” in the Filipino language, that was created in 1978 mainly to assert the Philippines’ claim to the disputed territory in the Spratlys, a chain of islets in the South China Sea. For the few dozen Filipinos living on a remote speck of land in the South China Sea, each day is a battle against loneliness but also a love affair with nature. Contact with the outside world is limited and comforts are few for the residents of “Freedom” town, which exists mainly to raise the Philippine flag and fend off the other claimants to the Spratly islands. AFP FILE PHOTO/ Kayalaan Municipal office

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos do not need to ask China’s permission to fish in the West Philippine Sea.

“I think that goes without saying, and we’ve done it in the past,” one of President Aquino’s spokespersons said Saturday in reaction to new Chinese  restrictions on fishing in disputed portions of the South China Sea, which include the Philippines’ 327-kilometers exclusive economic zone.

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“As the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) said, you have the right to fish, all states (can fish) in the high seas,” Abigail Valte said in an interview on state-run Radyo ng Bayan. “No one, under customary international law, not a single state can subject the high seas to its sovereignty.”

But when it comes to areas within the Philippines’ EEZ, “certainly, the rules are clear—under international law, when it comes to the EEZ, that is under our jurisdiction,” she said.

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Valte said that the DFA wanted clarification “just because everyone acknowledges that it’s a sensitive situation, and we do not want to be accused of raising tensions.”

In the latest action in Beijing’s escalating campaign to enforce its territorial claim to the South China Sea and small island groups there,  China’s Hainan province has approved a law, which took effect this month, requiring foreign fishing vessels to seek approval to enter waters that Beijing considers to be under Chinese jurisdiction.

The DFA expressed grave concern over this unilateral act of China that could worsen tensions in the region as it came on the heels of the late November announcement of a new air defense zone requiring foreign planes to notify Beijing of flights over a huge swath of the East China Sea, where China is locked in a bitter territorial dispute with Japan.

“We have requested China to immediately clarify the new fisheries law issued by the Hainan Provincial People’s Congress,” said the DFA in a statement on Friday.

“We are gravely concerned by this new regulation that would require foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval from Chinese regional authorities before fishing or surveying in a large portion of the South China Sea,” it said.

The DFA said this development “escalates tensions, unnecessarily complicates the situation in the South China Sea, and threatens the peace and stability of the region”.

The affected waters account for two million of the South China Sea’s 3.5 million square kilometers, a sweeping area encompassing island groups claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei—and in some cases occupied by their armed forces.

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The islands sit amid the world’s busiest commercial sea lanes, along with rich fishing grounds and potential oil and gas deposits.

The Philippines refers to parts of the South China Sea within its 327-km exclusive economic zone as the West Philippine Sea and Vietnam calls the waters within its own exclusive economic zone the East Sea.

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TAGS: China, DFA, Fishing, Maritime Dispute, Philippines, territorial dispute, West Philippine Sea
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