Step up crackdown vs foreign poachers in West Philippine Sea, gov’t pressed

Manila, Philippines – In response to China’s annual three-and-a-half-month fishing ban in the South China Sea which covers the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the Philippine government should likewise heighten crackdown against foreign fishing vessels by virtue of existing local fisheries and international laws, according to the militant fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) on Monday.

The fishers’ group cited the Republic Act 10654, otherwise known as the amended Fisheries Code, which states that it is unlawful for any foreign person, entity, or corporation to fish or operate any fishing vessel in Philippine waters and will constate a prima facie presumption.

Likewise, PAMALAKAYA furthered, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) declares that a coastal state has the exclusive rights to explore and exploit resources within its EEZ located 200-nautical mile from the baseline.

“It is by legal and international rights that we strongly enforce our maritime laws at our disposal against foreign poachers in our territorial waters. This is to preserve and make the use of our fragile fishery and marine resources in the West Philippine Sea that are being rapidly exploited and plundered by China,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said in a statement.

The fishers’ group asserts that Beijing’s annual fishing ban in the South China Sea which currently runs from May one to August 16, despite being unilateral, is illegal as it covers international waters that are beyond China’s territorial jurisdiction. At least 50, 000 Chinese vessels, PAMALAKAYA said, swarm and are engaged in massive poaching and fishing expeditions in the South China Sea.

“Beijing’s unilateral fishing ban will never be recognized in our EEZ and territorial waters,” Hicap added, saying the annual fishing ban covers Paracel Islands and Scarborough Shoal (locally known as Panatag Shoal), which are under the Philippines’ EEZ.

Lastly, PAMALAKAYA maintains that it would not recognize fishing ban but calls on the authorities to secure the fishing safety of Filipino fishers as many of them are still afraid to venture in their traditional fishing grounds in fear of Chinese harassment.

“The local authorities should heighten maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea to safeguard our fishers while the unilateral fishing ban is in place,” ended Hicap. ###

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