Filipino fisherfolk assert rights on West PH Sea over China’s ‘detention orders’
May 20, 2024

Photo by Philippine Coast Guard

By DOMINIC GUTOMAN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Filipino fisherfolk under the banner of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) asserted the political, historical, and legal rights of the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea amid the recent policy of China to detain “trespassers” in the South China Sea for up to 60 days without trial.

A copy of the 92-page document given by the Chinese Embassy to reporters sums up the administrative law enforcement procedures of Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) Agencies, extending the powers of CCG to detain foreigners who are “suspected of violating China’s border laws.”

This raises a question on their purvey of power since China has not recognized the sovereignty of the Philippines in the West Philippines Sea. PAMALAKAYA’s Provincial Coordinator in Zambales, Joey Marabe, said that China’s directive has no legal basis. “Hindi kinikilala ng mga Pilipinong mangingisda ang kautusan ng China na arestuhin ang mga itinuturing nitong dayuhan sa kinakamkam nilang karagatan.”

(The Filipino fisherfolk do not recognize the directive of China to arrest those they deem foreign in the seas they are infringing upon.)

Marabe also said that the Chinese forces should be arrested and held accountable, instead of the Filipino fisherfolk, for aggressive penetration of the Philippine territory without permission. He also said that the forces of China are conducting illegal fishing, reclamation, and building of military structures.

Ordinary fisherfolk have always been a target of harassment from the CCG. Last April 30, CCG vessels blasted the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) with fatal water cannons.

These forms of aggression did not start this year. It has been observed since the victory of the Philippines in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague in July 2016, declaring China’s claims over maritime seas within the “nine-dash line” unlawful.

On May 17, a coalition for the defense of the West Philippine Sea, Atin Ito (This is Ours), conducted its civilian supply mission in the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc. Volunteers installed symbolic markers and provided fishermen with fuel and other essential supplies outside the shoal.

“Bagama’t hindi kami magpapatinag sa bantang pang-aaresto ng China, magiging mapagbantay at alerto naman ang mga mangingisda habang nagpapatuloy sa aming pangingisda sa West Philippine Sea,” Marabe said, who also joined the recent civilian mission.

(While we will not waver despite the threats of arrest of China, fisherfolk will continue to be vigilant while fishing in the West Philippine Sea.)

In a radio interview with dzBB, New Masinloc Fishermen Association President Leonardo Cuaresma condemned China’s threats, standing firm on their decision to continue fishing in the West Philippine Sea.

“Hindi nila dapat gawin ‘yan sapagkat kami po, alam namin ang ating batas. Wala naman tayong nilalabag ayon sa ating fishery law. Bukod diyan ay wala naman kaming anumang binu-bully o hina-harass na mga kalahi nila,” said Cuaresma.

(They should not arrest us because we know the law. We do not violate any fishery law. Aside from that, we do not bully or harass their fellow nationals.)

Under Article 97 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), there should be no arrest or detention of the ship, even as a measure of investigation, shall be ordered by any authorities other than those of the flag State.

In settling disputes, the UN Charter also prohibits the threat and use of force on all of its member-states. The aggression faced by the Filipino fisherfolks violated the international laws that both the Philippines and China signed as UN member-states. (RVO)

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