South China Sea: Expert discusses China fishing ban

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The Philippines has rejected an annual summer fishing ban imposed by China in the disputed South China Sea and encouraged its boats to keep fishing in the country’s territorial waters. The fishing moratorium imposed by China since 1999 runs from May 1 to Aug 16 and covers areas of the South China Sea as well as other waters off China. Director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at CSIS, Greg Poling, said China is “more capable” of enforcing the fishing ban.

Speaking to ABS-CBN News, Mr Poling said: “China is a lot more capable of enforcing it than it has been in years past.

“This ban has been going into effect every year since 1999 and it implies to the northern half of the South China Sea.

“China’s presence in areas other than the Paracel Islands was mostly hypothetical until the last four to five years as we’ve seen day in and day out, there are dozens of Chinese coastguard ships.”

The taskforce opposed China’s imposition of the ban over the areas within the territory and jurisdiction of the Philippines, adding “our fisherfolk are encouraged to go out and fish in our waters in the WPS (West Philippine Sea)” The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Manila, which refers to the area as the West Philippine Sea, has for years been embroiled in a dispute over Beijing’s sweeping claims of sovereignty over the South China Sea.

An international tribunal in 2016 invalidated China’s claims, but China has rejected the ruling.

Tensions between the two countries have recently escalated after Manila accused China of territorial incursions by hundreds of its vessels in the resource-rich waterway.

The Philippines has filed diplomatic protests against China over what it calls the “illegal” presence of the Chinese vessels, which it says are manned by militia.

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Chinese diplomats have said the boats were just sheltering from rough seas and no militia were aboard.

The Philippines’ South China Sea taskforce said it spotted seven “Chinese Maritime Militia” at the Sabina shoal in the disputed Spratly archipelago on April 27, which dispersed after being challenged by the Philippine coast guard.

Five returned two days later but left after the Philippine coast guard arrived, it said. Sabina shoal is around 130 nautical miles from the western Philippine island of Palawan.

“The Philippines is not deterred from defending our national interest, patrimony, and our dignity as a people with all that we have,” the task force said.

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It comes as China aid on Thursday a US warship had illegally entered its territorial waters in the South China Sea, and was expelled by its forces, an assertion the United States denied, in the latest exchange of salvos over Beijing’s claims in the busy waterway.

In a statement, the Chinese military’s Southern Theatre Command said the USS Curtis Wilbur entered the waters near the Paracel Islands without permission, adding that its ships and planes followed the US vessel and “expelled” it.

It added that China opposed the US action, which it said violated its sovereignty and undermined regional peace and stability.

However, the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said the vessel “asserted navigational rights and freedoms” near the Paracel Islands, over which China, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim sovereignty.

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