Fisherfolk groups ask govt to crack down on poaching in PHL’s EEZ

In this April 27, 2021, file photo, Philippine Coast Guard personnel patrol beside ships said to be Chinese militia vessels at Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine government should crack down on foreign fishing vessels poaching within the country’s exclusive economic zone in response to China’s three-and-a-half-month fishing ban in the disputed territory, fisherfolk groups  under the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said on Monday.

In a news statement, Fernando Hicap, national coordinator of Pamalakaya, said the government should implement the crackdown by virtue of existing local fisheries and international laws.

Republic Act 10654, otherwise known as the amended Fisheries Code, states that it is unlawful for any foreign person, entity, or corporation to fish or operate any fishing vessel in Philippine waters and will constitute a prima facie presumption, Hicap, a former Anakpawis party-list lawmaker, said.

Hicap, likewise, said 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 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“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 [WPS] that is being rapidly exploited and plundered by China,” Hicap said.

According to Pamalakaya, Beijing’s annual fishing ban in the South China Sea, which currently runs from May 1 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.

Pamalakaya maintains that “it would not recognize China’s fishing ban,” but called on the Philippine authorities to secure the safety of Filipino fishers as many of them are still afraid to venture in their traditional fishing grounds for fear of Chinese harassment.

“The local authorities should heighten maritime patrols in the WPS to safeguard our fishers while the unilateral fishing ban is in place,” Hicap said.


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