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Have no fear, we will protect you, AFP assures fishermen

DEFIANT ONES. Members of militant groups rally outside the Chinese consulate yesterday in Makati City to condemn China’s ‘trespass rule’ in the West Philippine Sea which takes effect today. Danny Pata
Vince Lopez

China anti-trespassing rule in SCS takes effect today

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it would not be deterred in doing maritime domain patrols and assured Filipino fishermen they will be protected in the West Philippine Sea as China’s new regulation allowing its coast guard to detain “trespassers” in the South China Sea takes effect today (Saturday).

“Don’t be afraid to fish in the West Philippine Sea. Continue fishing in our exclusive economic zone despite the threats coming from China that they are going to arrest civilians who will be coming into their so-called territory. It’s not their territory,” AFP chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said.

He said the military already discussed steps to ensure the safety of Filipinos in the WPS with the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

“Our exclusive economic zone is ours and we have the right to exploit our resources in the area. That’s why our fishermen should not be afraid. Your Armed Forces of the Philippines is there through the Philippine Navy, as well as the Philippine Coast Guard,” he added.

AFP Public Affairs Office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad described China’s presence in the WPS as “illegal, coercive, aggressive and deceptive.”

“We will not be deterred or intimidated… We will continue our maritime patrols in areas within the Philippines’ jurisdiction,” he said.

“Nothing will happen. The actions right now of the Philippine Navy, AFP, Philippine Coast Guard and BFAR and all maritime players of the Philippine government are to prevent such situations,” Trinidad added.

Trinidad said the Philippines also increased patrols in the WPS, working with partners and allies who are equally concerned over China’s aggressive actions.

“We are not the only ones concerned. Even other countries are concerned about that. This is not only the problem of the Philippines, but the problem of ASEAN and the international community,” he said.

President Marcos last month condemned China’s order to arrest foreign nationals trespassing in the South China Sea, which includes areas that fall under the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

“That kind of action would be completely unacceptable to the Philippines,” he said. “That is unacceptable, and we will take whatever measures to always protect our citizens.”

China, for its part, said the Philippines should not be worried about the new rules for “as long as there is no illegal behavior.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the rules aim to standardize law enforcement and better uphold maritime order, adding that “individuals and entities have no need for concern as long as they have not done anything illicit.”

Under the new regulation, foreigners accused of illegally entering “Chinese waters” can be detained for up to 60 days without trial.

At the House, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez urged the Senate to approve his bill that seeks to define the country’s sea lanes to deter intrusion of Chinese ships and other foreign vessels and aircraft, particularly in the West Philippine Sea.

“We should take all measures to protect our nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Chinese are not only intruding in the western part of our country but in the south as well,” he said.

House Bill 9034, which was approved on third and final reading in December at the Lower House, sets the coordinates designating the sea lanes and air routes for the continuous and expeditious sailing or flight of foreign ships and aircraft exercising the right of innocent passage.

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