National Security Adviser (NSA) Eduardo M. Año on Monday condemned the latest Chinese effort to block Filipino fishermen from fishing in Bajo De Masinloc (BDM), and emphasized that the Philippine government will take the necessary action to remove these floating barriers.
“We will take all appropriate actions to cause the removal of the barriers and to protect the rights of our fishermen in the area,” he stressed.
Año, who is also head of the National Security Council, said the placement of these floating barriers by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) violates the traditional fishing rights of Filipino fishermen.
“We condemn the installation of floating barriers by CCG [China Coast Guard] in BDM. The placement by the People’s Republic of China of a barrier violates the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen whose rights have been affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral Ruling,” he added.
“It [2016 Arbitral Ruling] ruled categorically that such action by the PRC violated the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen in the shoal who have been fishing there for centuries. Any State that prevents them from doing artisanal fishing there violates UNCLOS and international law, in general,” the NSA stressed.
Año also said that the President is always informed on all developments in the West Philippine Sea, particularly in the areas surrounding BDM and Ayungin Shoal.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) earlier slammed the CCG for the installation of a floating barrier at BDM that prevented the entry of Filipino fishing boats (FFB) and their crews.
“The floating barrier with an estimated length of 300 meters was discovered by the PCG and BFAR [Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources] personnel onboard BRP Datu Bankaw when they conducted routine maritime patrol on September 22, 2023 at the vicinity of BDM,” it added.
It was also learned that three CCG rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) and Chinese Maritime Militia’s service boat installed the floating barrier upon arrival of the BFAR vessel in the vicinity of the shoal.
It was reported by the Filipino fishermen that the CCG vessels usually install floating barriers whenever they monitor a large number of Filipino fishermen in the area.
During the routine maritime patrol, the BFAR vessel observed more than 50 FFBs engaged in fishing activities in the area.
THE Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippine government would take “all appropriate steps to protect our country’s sovereignty and the livelihood of our fisherfolk.”
“Bajo de Masinloc is an integral part of the Philippines over which we have sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction according to UNCLOS. The 2016 Arbitral Award affirms it as a traditional fishing ground of Filipino fisherfolk,” DFA said.
“China’s reported installation of barriers and its negative impact on the livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk or any other activity that infringes upon the Philippines’ sovereignty and jurisdiction in Bajo de Masinloc are violations of international law, particularly UNCLOS and the Arbitral Award,” Teresita Daza, the DFA added in a statement.
However, the DFA did not say that the Arbitration Tribunal also ruled that Chinese fishermen—not only Filipino fishermen—have the right to engage in traditional fishing in Scarborough Shoal, regardless of who ultimately has sovereignty over the shoal.
The European Union Delegation, for its part, expressed “deep concern” over the installation of floating barriers by China.
“Deeply concerning news. The installation of the floating barrier is dangerous, detrimental to the livelihoods of fishermen, and disregards the peace-driven objectives of UNCLOS,” Ambassador Luc Veron said in a tweet.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) confirmed China’s installation of a 300-meter floating barrier off Panatag Shoal, preventing Filipino fishermen from accessing the area, a traditional fishing ground of Luzon fishermen.
Pamalakaya reported that even before the buoys were installed, Filipino fishermen had been restricted by CCG from accessing their traditional fishing grounds.
“Even before these buoys, we are unable to return to the lagoon inside the Panatag Shoal due to the permanent presence of at least two Chinese Coast Guard vessels in its passage. The said lagoon is crucial for Filipinos, especially in times of turbulent weather and rough seas, because it serves as a safe harbor for our fishing vessels,” Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said in a statement.
Bobby Roldan, Pamalakaya vice chairman for Luzon, for his part, said that installation of the buoys will further impede fishing activities and consequently affect fish production.
“We assert that China has no legal basis to put up any objects in our traditional waters that will obstruct our freedom of navigation and fishing rights,” Hicap said.
“Moreover, we are expecting more from our maritime authorities, such as enforcing the basic rules of engagement in a situation like this. The Philippine Coast Guard or Navy could just eject the buoys right away, as it is against international law. The Marcos administration must go beyond lodging diplomatic protests and take necessary steps to have these nuisance floating objects immediately removed from our territorial waters,” he suggested.