Manila warns Chinese fishermen to stay out of Philippine waters

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    Manila warns Chinese fishermen to stay out of Philippine waters | GMA News Online | The Go-To Site for Filipinos Everywhere

    Manila on Monday warned a fleet of 30 Chinese fishing vessels to steer clear of the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and not to exploit marine resources in the area.

    The Philippines will file a diplomatic protest against China once its vessels encroach on Philippine waters, said Raul Hernandez, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman.

    “The Chinese fishing vessels must not intrude in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. We require China to respect the sovereign rights of the Philippines over the resources within our EEZ,” Hernandez told reporters in a briefing.

    Foreign vessels may pass through a country's EEZ, Hernandez said, noting however that only the Philippines has the right to manage, develop and exploit resources in areas covered in its zone as spelled out by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The treaty is signed by the Philippines, China and 162 other states.

    According to reports, the new batch of Chinese vessels arrived in the Spratlys on Sunday after a 78-hour voyage from China’s Hainan province. A fisheries administration patrol ship was also reported to have accompanied the fishermen to protect their activities.

    “Those 30 fishing vessels should not go fishing into our EEZ, and therefore the owners or the state that has jurisdiction over those vessels should have due regard to the rights of the Philippines,” Hernandez said.

    'We see it as pre-planned'

    In a related development, DFA Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda Basilio said in an interview Monday over GMA News TV’s “News To Go” that 77 other Chinese vessels also arrived within the vicinity of the disputed Panatag Shoal.

    “Nakikita natin na planado iyon. May plano talaga,” she said.

    Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino III met with United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) Commander Admiral Samuel J. Locklear in Malacañang to discuss Philippine maritime security.

    According to Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon Carandang, "there was also, again, a reiteration of the assistance that they’re willing to provide us so that we can build a minimum credible defensive posture for the country."

    Apart from China and the Philippines, countries involved in territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea are Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

    The area is seen a potential flashpoint for a major armed conflict.

    Beijing virtually claims the whole of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which is home to islands, cays, shoals and reefs rich in marine and fossil fuel resources, apart from being a strategic and busy waterway.

    Just last week, a Chinese Navy frigate ran aground on a Philippine shoal, which Manila said is within its EEZ. The Chinese warship was refloated Sunday and is on its way back to China.

    The DFA will be conducting an investigation of the incident to determine whether it was intentional or not, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a separate briefing in Malacañang. — With reports by Gian Geronimo and Andreo Calonzo/AL/VS/HS, GMA News

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