Malacañang is encouraging Filipino fishermen to go out and fish in the country’s territorial waters in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and ignore China’s three-month fishing ban that covers parts of the sea.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Filipino fishermen are not covered by China’s annual fishing ban in the area.
His statement echoed the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), which said the Chinese fishing ban does not apply to Filipino fishermen in areas within the territory and jurisdiction of the Philippines.
The law of other countries has no "extra-territorial application,” Roque said.
“Stay there in our traditional fishing grounds. Our coast guard is there to protect the interest of our fishermen,” Roque said in a press briefing.
China has imposed a fishing moratorium in the South China Sea from May 1 to Aug. 16.
China has been imposing the fishing ban since 1999.
Under the 1982 United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines has sovereign rights over features located within its exclusive economic zone or 12 to 200 nautical miles from the baseline of its territorial waters.
China continues to reject the 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed court that junked its claims to about 90 percent of the waterway, including parts of the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
Earlier, the Philippines protested the fishing ban, saying the unilateral policy infringes on the country’s sovereignty over its waters.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said Manila does not recognize China’s fishing moratorium from May 1 to August 16 this year, as it covers waters in areas where the Philippines exercises” sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.”
“China’s annual fishing moratorium extends far beyond China’s legitimate maritime entitlements under UNCLOS and is without basis under international law. China cannot legally impose nor legally enforce such a moratorium in the West Philippines Sea,” a DFA statement said.
China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said the ban covers “waters north of 12 degrees north latitude in the South China Sea,” areas that include Philippine waters.
In another development, a group of former police and military officers said President Duterte should withdraw his statements on the West Philippine Sea issue that do not conform with the national interest.
Retired lieutenant general Edilberto Adan, head of the Advocates for National Interest, said the officers’ group called on the President to "have a firm stand" in defending Philippine sovereignty in its territorial waters.
Adan also disagreed with Duterte that going to war with China was the "only option" to assert the Philippines' claims in the disputed waters.
“What we’re saying is war is not the only option, there are other instruments of national power that can be used," he said.