Philippines protests China’s unilateral fishing ban in South China Sea News
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Philippines protests China’s unilateral fishing ban in South China Sea

The Philippines protested China’s imposition of a unilateral, four-month fishing ban in the South China Sea, its Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) stated in a press release on Monday. The ban has been imposed annually since 1999 and is expected to last until September 16 this year.

Calling on China to “cease and desist from the conduct of illegal actions that violates the Philippines’ sovereignty,” the DFA argued that China was in breach of paragraph 716 of the final and binding 2016 Arbitral Award, which found that China’s fishing ban was in breach of Article 56 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UCLOS). Article 56 of UCLOS provides that a coastal State within its exclusive economic zone has “sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources”. China, however, rejected the binding 2016 international tribunal’s ruling due to an alleged historical precedent giving China rights to over 90 percent of the South China Sea, with Chinese President Xi Jinping stating that the ruling would not affect China’s “territorial sovereignty and marine rights” in the seas.

The DFA also stressed that the fishing ban “raises tensions” between the Philippines and China, with Philippines defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro calling China’s actions a “provocation”. Last week, China announced that it will detain foreigners intruding into areas it claims in the South China Sea. Reportedly, China also engaged in aggressive conduct towards the Philippine Coast Guard and its supply boats using water cannons, military-grade lasers and dangerous blockings on high seas.

The reason for China’s South Sea fishing ban, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce, is said to be an effort to conserve and revive fishing stocks50 percent of which have either collapsed or been over-exploited in recent decades, resulting in the need to fish further out. Notably, the largely uninhabited Paracels and Spratley Islands in the South China Sea are also thought to hold a wealth of oil and natural gas reserves, although there has been little exploration in this area as of yet.