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Beyond protests?

The Philippines once again filed a diplomatic protest against China’s annual fishing moratorium that is scheduled for three and a half months in some areas of the South China Sea, especially as it extends to parts of the West Philippine Sea that should be accessible to Filipino fishermen.

The Department of Foreign Affairs protested China’s unilateral fishing ban in a diplomatic note dated May 30.

“The DFA reiterated its continuing protest of China’s annual practice of declaring a fishing ban over areas that extend far beyond China’s legitimate maritime entitlements under the 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” it said in a statement.

The Philippines has always protested the annual fishing ban as it covers areas that are recognized as part of Philippine territory. The DFA cited the 2016 arbitral ruling that provided that Manila has the right over the living resources over its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, which the South China Sea falls within.

Earlier this month, Vietnam also condemned the fishing ban for violating its sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction. China’s fishing ban this year will run from May 1 until August 16.

The DFA’s protests against the unilateral fishing ban have fallen on deaf ears as China continues to treat the territory that our government has allowed to be seized and occupied as its own. The fishing ban is but one of the many ways the neighborhood bully flexes its muscles and asserts dominance over that disputed territory that contains waters that are one of the world’s richest fishing grounds and even valuable gas and oil deposits.

Our government cannot continue doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. While protests to the fishing ban and the continued harassment of Filipino maritime vessels and fishermen shouldn’t let up, it will be up to the incoming administration to come up with better and more effective ways of dealing with the neighborhood bully.*

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