Coast guard to protect you, Palace tells fisherfolk amid China ban
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday told local fishermen to continue venturing into their traditional fishing grounds, assuring them of the Philippine Coast Guard’s protection, after China imposed a fishing ban in the South China Sea that covered areas within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
“Just stay in our traditional fishing grounds and the Philippine Coast Guard is there to protect the interests of our fisherfolk,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said, adding that China’s fishing ban cannot be imposed in the Philippines.
“There is no extraterritorial application of the laws of foreign countries,” Roque said in a press briefing.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has filed a diplomatic protest against the ban imposed by Beijing, which runs up to Aug. 16 and covers waters north of the 12th parallel and two of the 12 fishing management areas of the Philippines.
These include waters surrounding Antique, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cavite, and Batangas.
The ban also covers waters west of Palawan’s Busuanga Island all the way to the north past Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, the site of a 2012 standoff between Chinese and Philippine ships.
The protest comes in the wake of Manila’s objection to the continuing presence of Chinese militia vessels at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef. It was filed as the administration parried criticism that President Duterte continued to be soft on China. He recently remarked that China had wrested control of the West Philippine Sea and that the country’s 2016 arbitral tribunal victory voiding Beijing’s sweeping claims to the South China Sea was a “mere scrap of paper.”
Biazon: Convene NSC
The controversy prompted former senator Rodolfo Biazon on Wednesday to call for the convening of the National Security Council (NSC) to address the country’s “confusing” stand on the matter.
But Roque denied that there was anything unclear in the administration’s position, saying confusion on the West Philippine Sea issue was due to politicking by the President’s critics.
“First of all, there is nothing confusing about the stand of the President on the West Philippine Sea. Matters that cannot be agreed on would be set aside, and matters that could be pursued would be pursued, such as trade and business. But we (will) not give away our territory and will stand by and protect our national sovereignty and our sovereign rights,” he said.
As for convening the NSC, Roque said the President may informally consult former chief executives and other personalities.
“(I)f necessary, he is thinking of inviting former presidents and other personalities to a meeting to discuss the issue. His experience with the NSC is that no resolution was achieved there, so why would he [convene it] when that could be done through informal consultations,” the Palace official said.
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