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PH fishers seek UN help vs China abuses in Scarborough

/ 03:15 AM August 13, 2016
FISHERMEN from Subic, Zambales, prepare their boats for another fishing trip to Scarborough Shoal moments after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague favored the Philippines on its territorial dispute with China. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

FISHERMEN from Subic, Zambales, prepare their boats for another fishing trip to Scarborough Shoal moments after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague favored the Philippines on its territorial dispute with China. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

MASINLOC, Zambales—Backed by international law experts, Zambales fishermen on Friday appealed to the United Nations to remind China to respect their rights to fish near the Scarborough Shoal, which is considered to be part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone but which China is claiming to be its territory.

The fishermen invoked an international arbitration ruling favoring Philippine territorial claims to also seek an investigation of violations of their rights allegedly by Chinese patrols controlling the shoal.

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Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque, who serves as legal counsel of the fishermen, gathered at least 60 of them at the town hall here to finalize the new appeal he later transmitted by e-mail to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

(CESCR).

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“The UN tribunal ruled that your rights to fish around the shoal were violated by China but we want UN to declare that your right to survive, right to livelihood and right to have food have been violated as well,” Roque told the fishermen.

Their eight-page appeal reminded the UN about their complaint filed last year that China had been “committing massive and gross” human rights violations against Filipino fishermen for driving them away from the shoal.

“Specifically, we request that you exert your moral influence and urgently intervene, remind, and direct China and its state agents to respect the human rights of the Filipino fisherfolk,” said the appeal.

More than 50 fishermen from Zambales and Pangasinan provinces filed the complaint with the help of Roque and the Institute of International Legal Studies of the University of the Philippines Law Center.

The new appeal was received by the offices of Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food; and Idriss Jazairy, UN Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights.

Roque also asked the CESCR to direct China to provide remedies and compensation for the Filipino fishermen. “Based on international law, if we could prove that your human rights were violated, China has to compensate you,” Roque told the fishermen.

In its July 12 ruling, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within areas falling within its nine-dash line boundary.

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The ruling said fishermen from the Philippines and China share fishing rights around the shoal, which China had breached by restricting access to Filipino fishing vessels.

Viany Mula, 45, one of the complainants who signed the appeal, said he was hopeful that the UN would act soon so that they could return to the shoal to earn a living.

“I stopped going back to the shoal in 2013 to avoid being attacked by the Chinese coast guards. I lost my only source of income so I decided to become a tricycle driver to support my family,” Mula said.

Masinloc Mayor Arsenia Lim cautioned local fishermen against returning to the shoal to prevent a confrontation with Chinese patrols.

“We have to wait until the tension eases in the shoal. There are other places where you can catch fish and I’m encouraging you to find other alternative fishing grounds,” Lim told the fishermen. Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon

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TAGS: China, Fishermen, news, PH, Philippines, Regions, Scarborough, UN, United Nations, Zambales
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