China’s intrusion should top the agenda in the ASEAN meet – fisherfolk

China’s intrusion should top the agenda in the ASEAN meet – fisherfolk

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their bilateral meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 20. Photo by King Rodriguez/PPD

Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Saturday urged Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayteno to make the sea row, particularly China’s unabated reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea as the top agenda on the 50th Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) which is currently being held in Manila this weekend.

The fisherfolk group raises doubt on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea that the ASEAN delegates will primarily tackle in the series of meetings, saying the proposed framework is neither legally binding nor enforceable.

China has already reclaimed seven reefs in the West Philippine Sea; three of them now facilitate the installation of military facilities. All of the reclaimed reefs and islands are indisputably part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf (ECS) as stated by the 2012 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The 2016 international tribunal ruling strengthens our legal claim over the disputed maritime territory.

The group also urged Cayetano to retract President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposal to enter a joint oil and gas exploration agreement with China in the West Philippine Sea because it could lead to total sell-out of our sovereignty to Beijing.

PAMALAKAYA fears the proposed joint venture with China would lead to another deprivation of Filipino fishermen to their traditional fishing ground in the West Philippine Sea because the fishing area might be declared as off limits for fishing activities once the joint exploration takes place. Another concern raised by the fisherfolk group is China’s highly sophisticated drilling rigs and exploration equipments that could exploit our marine and mineral resources.

We urge Secretary Cayetano to raise the issue of Chinese illegal occupation and reclamation in the West Philippine Sea. These are the opportunities that the diplomat official shouldn’t miss. We expect Cayetano to diplomatically and actively assert our sovereign and territorial rights before the ASEAN delegates,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.

Aside from China and the Philippines, other countries who have overlapping claims over the South China Sea are Tauwa, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam. ###

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