Fishermen told to stay away from ‘China shoal’
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. –
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.