US backs PH protest of China fishing ban

State Department spokesman Ned Price. File Photo

(UPDATE)THE United States on Thursday backed the Philippines in criticizing a unilateral seasonal ban on fishing declared by Beijing in the dispute-rife South China Sea.

The State Department pointed to a 2016 ruling by a court in The Hague that rejected Beijing's claims, as well as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, ratified by China although not by the United States.

“The PRC's unilateral fishing moratorium in the South China Sea is inconsistent with the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling and international law,” State Department spokesman Ned Price wrote on Twitter, using an acronym for the People's Republic of China. “We call upon the PRC to abide by its obligations under international law.”

The Philippines, a treaty-bound ally of the United States, on Tuesday summoned a Chinese diplomat over the announcement of a unilateral fishing ban as well as alleged harassment of a marine research vessel by a Chinese coast guard ship.

China has each year declared a fishing ban in the summer, pointing to the need to develop sustainable marine life due to overfishing in the major population hub.

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But its actions have been caught up in disputes over sovereignty, with Beijing insisting it has jurisdiction over a vast part of the South China Sea — a longstanding source1 of friction with the Philippines, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations.

In its diplomatic protest the Department of Foreign Affairs said the ban exempts Chinese fishing vessels and violates the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 arbitration tribunal's decision.

China does not recognize the arbitration ruling and continues to defy it.

The ban “has no basis in law, and undermines the mutual trust, confidence, and respect that should underpin bilateral relations,” the department said in a statement.

“The Philippines calls on China to comply with its obligations under international law” and “cease and desist from the conduct of illegal actions,” including its “annual practice of declaring a fishing ban over areas that extend far beyond China's legitimate maritime entitlements,” it said.

The research vessel R/V Legend was surveying undersea fault lines along the Manila Trench when it was shadowed by a Chinese coast guard ship, according to reports.

The proximity of the Chinese vessel caused concern among the scientists on the research ship which was towing a long survey cable in the sea, Carla Dimalanta of the National Institute of Geological Sciences at the University of the Philippines, was quoted by news agencies.


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