IT NOT only boggles my mind, but I am also disappointed, as all Filipinos should be, that the outspoken Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. did not chime in to support Hanoi’s opposition to Beijing’s imposition of its annual fishing moratorium in the South China Sea, which also includes the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
This came after the Chinese agricultural ministry announced the start of the annual fishing ban on May 1 and will last until Aug. 16.
The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry condemned China’s unilateral fishing ban, pointing out that it violates Hanoi’s sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and contradicts the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
But since China does not honor the UNCLOS nor does it respect the July 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea then I would suppose that this fishing ban will be imposed strictly.
What is even unconscionable here is that the unilateral fishing ban also violates the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea between Beijing and Southeast Asian nations.
So in the same manner that Vietnamese fishermen are prevented from fishing in what it considers as its own territory, the Paracel Islands, Filipino fishermen has also to observe the fishing moratorium decreed by China in our country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), most especially in the rich fishing ground of Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal).
It is, therefore, in this context that I wish the tough-talking and candid Locsin could have issued a resounding protest echoing that of the Vietnamese government, if only to remind the contemptuous Chinese officials that we are a sovereign nation that respects the rule of law and not their subjects.
It is bad enough that the Filipino fishermen are being harassed and monitored closely by Chinese forces in their own fishing ground, but it is even worse that a despotic unilateral fishing ban is demanded on poor and powerless nations like the Philippines whose daily catches could not compare with the volume of catch per day China’s armada of fishing vessels make in the disputed areas of the WPS.