Filipino fishers repeatedly harassed by China
MANILA, Philippines – China has repeatedly blocked Filipino fishermen from accessing Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag shoal or Scarborough shoal) in 2013 and even prevented them from sheltering inside the shoal during stormy weather, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said this after Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista said Monday that Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels used water cannons to drive away Filipino fishermen from the disputed shoal last January 27.
“The DFA also received information that about nine (9) similar reports of harassment incidents of Filipino fishermen were committed by Chinese civilian maritime law enforcement agency (CMLEA) vessels last year,” Hernandez told reporters Tuesday.
“Even during inclement weather conditions, Philippine fishing vessels were driven away from the area,” he said.
Panatag Shoal, which is 220 kilometers off Luzon island, has been the site of a standoff between Chinese and Philippines ships in 2012.
Chinese fishing vessels were found illegally poaching endangered and endemic Philippine marine species in the shoal but Filipino authorities were prevented from apprehending them after CCG ships blocked the entrance to the shoal.
The CCG has maintained control of the shoal after the Philippine Coast Guard withdrew from the standoff because of bad weather.
The January 27 incident where CCG with Bow Number 3063 used water cannons to drive away two Filipino fishing boats that were 30 to 40 yards from the shoal is the first time it happened.
Previously, CCG vessels blew their horn against the small fishing boats or created big waves by passing near, Hernandez said.
“This is the first time that we have received reports of this kind of incident. These actions, these incidents, truly escalate the tensions in the area and further threaten the peace and security and stability in the region,” he said.
The DFA has summoned the Chargé d’Affaires of the Chinese Embassy on Monday to “strongly protest the acts of harassment” against Filipino fishermen.
“The DFA strongly protests the acts of harassment and the manner by which these were committed by China to forcefully drive away Philippine fishing vessels from Bajo de Masinloc,” Hernandez said.
“The DFA vehemently protests the acts of China when its law enforcement vessels drove away Philippine fishing vessels seeking shelter in the Philippines’ Bajo de Masinloc during inclement weather,” he said.
China claims the entire South China Sea as its territory including the shoal which is around 650 km from Hainan Island, the nearest major Chinese landmass.
The United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) mandates a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone from a nation’s coastline over which it has the sovereign right to exploit resources within.
The Philippines has a pending arbitration case against China’s “indisputable, excessive, and illegal claims” before the UN permanent court of arbitration.
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