The Philippines
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Fishing boats anchored in The Philippines, which is claiming ‘harassment’ by China. Photo: Bloomberg

South China Sea: Philippines complains of Chinese fishing ban and ‘harassment’ at sea

  • Accuses Chinese vessels of disrupting a marine scientific research mission and energy exploration activities in Philippines’ exclusive economic zone
  • Denounces China’s imposition of a fishing moratorium aimed at regenerating fish stocks – annual ban includes waters inside EEZs of The Philippines and Vietnam
The Philippines on Tuesday said it had filed a diplomatic protest with China for unilaterally declaring a South China Sea fishing ban, and complained also of harassment and violations of its jurisdiction by Beijing’s coastguard.
The foreign ministry in a statement accused the Chinese vessels of disrupting a joint marine scientific research mission as well as energy exploration activities at two sites in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In another statement, it denounced China’s imposition of a fishing moratorium aimed at regenerating fish stocks, an annual ban that includes waters inside the EEZs of Vietnam and the Philippines.

Philippines accuses China of dangerous challenges near Scarborough Shoal

China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Philippine statements, which referred to developments in March and April.

The foreign ministry said the coastguard’s actions were “not consistent with innocent passage and are clear violations of the Philippine maritime jurisdiction”.

It did not say why it waited more than a month to comment on the incidents.


Philippine fishermen claim continued Chinese harassment on South China Sea

Philippine fishermen claim continued Chinese harassment on South China Sea
The protest shows the challenges ahead for President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jnr, who will have a delicate balancing act in pursuing stronger economic ties with China while not appearing to capitulate over what the military sees as Beijing’s unlawful provocations at sea.

Marcos, whose May 9 election win analysts see as more favourable to Beijing than Washington, last week said he would defend sovereign territory and stand up to Chinese encroachment, in his strongest comments yet on foreign policy.

That followed a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping during which he said he would elevate bilateral ties to a new level.

Philippines using base near South China Sea to counter China’s assertiveness

The Philippines and China have historically had a rocky relationship over Beijing’s vast territorial claims and conduct of its coastguard and fishing fleet in the South China Sea, through which at least US$2.4 million of seaborne trade passes each year.

Last year The Philippines lodged a protest over China’s continuing “illegal presence and activities” near an island in the South China Sea held by the Southeast Asian nation.

Manila lodged the diplomatic protest over the “incessant deployment, prolonged presence, and illegal activities of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels” in the vicinity of Thitu island. It demanded that China withdraw the vessels.

Beijing, Manila need ‘new ideas’ to manage South China Sea differences

Tensions between Manila and Beijing escalated over the months-long presence of hundreds of Chinese boats in the Philippine 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines said it believed the vessels were manned by militias, while Beijing said they were fishing boats sheltering from bad weather.

China built a mini-city with runways, hangars and surface-to-air-missiles in the Subi Reef about 25km from Thitu.

An international tribunal in 2016 invalidated China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea, where about US$3 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes annually. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have competing claims to various islands and features in the area.