Fish­er­men told to stay away from ‘China shoal’

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THE Philip­pines told its fish­er­men yes­ter­day to steer clear of a fish­ing ground in the dis­puted South China Sea to avoid ha­rass­ment from Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties.

The warn­ing came de­spite a re­cent rul­ing by a United Na­tions-backed tri­bunal in favour of the Philip­pines, as it dis­missed China’s ter­ri­to­rial claims to large swathes of the waters.

China re­jected the judge­ment and on Au­gust 2 an­nounced penal­ties for “il­le­gal” fish­ing in its waters, in­clud­ing the dis­puted ar­eas.

“We are aware that China is oc­cu­py­ing Scar­bor­ough Shoal, so let us wait for clar­ity on how our fish­er­men can re­turn there with­out be­ing sub­jected to ha­rass­ment any more,” for­eign af­fairs spokesper­son Charles Jose said.

Mr Jose said while the tri­bunal rul­ing was clear, the “real­ity on the ground” was dif­fer­ent.

“The real­ity is that China is there so we must dis­cuss this,” he said.

Asked if this meant Filipino fish­er­men should avoid the shoal for now, Mr Jose said, “This is for the safety of everyone.”

Manila’s po­si­tion is likely to

anger critics of Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s new gov­ern­ment, which has been ac­cused of tak­ing a soft line with Bei­jing.

The ques­tion of who has the right to fish in the dis­puted South China Sea has been a ma­jor bone of con­tention be­tween Bei­jing and Manila, which brought the case to the Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion in The Hague.

Manila lodged the case un­der its pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment in 2013, say­ing that af­ter 17 years of ne­go­ti­a­tions with Bei­jing it had ex­hausted all po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic av­enues to set­tle the dis­pute.

Viet­nam, Malaysia, Brunei and Tai­wan also have claims to the sea, through which more than US$5 tril­lion in an­nual trade passes. –

Photo: EPA

Filipino Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte (cen­tre) poses with for­mer pres­i­dents Joseph Estrada (left), Glo­ria Ar­royo, Fidel Ramos and Benigno Aquino III (right) dur­ing a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Meet­ing in Manila. Mr Duterte met with the for­mer lead­ers to dis­cuss the re­cent rul­ing on the dis­puted South China Sea.

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