Posts Tagged ‘fishermen’

Philippine Navy at fault in death of 2 Vietnamese fishermen, probe finds

October 1, 2017
Investigators cited a 1999 ruling of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea as it found that the Philippine Navy was at fault for the deaths of the Vietnamese fishermen, a source told Vera FIles. The ITLOS ruling states that: “In the conduct of arrest, use of excessive and unreasonable force in stopping and arresting a vessel such as firing with live ammunition using shots from large–caliber automatic guns must be avoided, and where force is unavoidable, it must not go beyond what is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.”  Vera Files

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy is at fault in the death of two fishermen during a sea chase in the waters of Pangasinan on September 22, a source privy to the investigation of the incident said.

Investigators, the source said, cited a 1999 ruling of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) that states: “In the conduct of arrest, use of excessive and unreasonable force in stopping and arresting a vessel such as firing with live ammunition using shots from large–caliber automatic guns must be avoided, and where force is unavoidable, it must not go beyond what is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.”

READ: 2 Vietnamese dead, 5 arrested in chase with Philippine Navy

The Philippine Coast Guard, which is investigating the incident, took note that the incident happened 39 nautical miles off Bolinao in Pangasinan, which was within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines, the source further said.

“Under the Law of the Sea Convention, in the EEZ, the Philippines does not have Sovereignty but only Sovereign Rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources found therein. This means that the Philippines cannot enforce its laws including the Revised Penal Code except only its laws and regulations relating to fisheries and marine environmental protection,” explained the source.

The Philippine Navy announced September 26 that the officers involved in the incident were relieved as the Department of Foreign Affairs assured Vietnam a fair and thorough investigation into the deaths.

“We would like to offer our sympathies over the unfortunate loss of life and give you our assurance that we will conduct a fair and thorough investigation into this matter,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.

READ: Philippines to probe death of 2 Vietnamese fishermen in sea chase

The VERA Files source said based on the interview with the Vietnamese fishing boat captain, at about 11 in the evening on September 22, while the Vietnamese fishing boat was anchored 39 nautical miles off Bolinao, an unidentified vessel sailed towards their direction. Immediately, they cut their anchor net and scampered away towards the direction of Vietnam because they were afraid the approaching vessel was a pirates’ ship.

The Vietnamese heard 10 gunshots fired towards both sides of their fishing boat. It was only after a 30-minute chase, when the pursuing vessel was approximately three to five meters away that it was identified as the BRP Miguel Malvar (PS 19).

“At that very near distance, the PN vessel continued to fire at fishing boat killing two of the six crew who were hiding inside the cargo hold area located at the forward portion of the boat. The Navy officers arrested the remaining fishermen for poaching and brought them to Sual in Pangasinan,” the source said.

A photo of the BRP Miguel Malvar. Vera Files

Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said it is too early to decide whether the Philippine Navy may be sanctioned.

“Whether or not the use of deadly force is justified is a separate question,” he told VERA Files in an interview. “That is supposed to be determined in the investigation,” he added, noting that whether disciplinary actions will be taken against those who fired is separate from poaching.

However, lawyer Romel Bagares, executive director of the Center for International Law, pointed out that the Philippine crew, all state agents, are covered by state immunity.

A case, he said, “may only be proceeded against in a criminal procedure by a Philippine court, unless the Philippines has expressly waived such immunity in favor of a Vietnamese court.”

Bagares added: “The Philippines has the sole and exclusive jurisdiction to do so under established international law.”

“If the Philippines imposes an unreasonable bond for the prompt release of ship and crew and refuses to pay reparations for the two deaths, Vietnam may file the appropriate action before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea,” Bagares said.

What the Navy did as part of its law enforcement was “justified,” as it happened within the 200-nautical mile EEZ of the Philippines, Batongbacal maintained.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines has sovereign rights on its 200 nautical mile EEZ, where the country has exclusive rights to “explore and exploit natural resources” found in the area.

“Any foreign vessel that is found fishing in the (EEZ) is considered to be committing the crime of poaching,” Batongbacal said.

Although sovereign rights are “less than sovereignty,” as Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had earlier said, they retain a country’s exclusive and superior rights above other states.

Sovereignty bestows full rights on a country within the 12-nautical mile stretch of its territorial waters measured from the baseline. Beyond it is the EEZ governed by the Philippines’ sovereign rights, which give power for a country to take measures like arresting vessels and their crews under Article 73 of UNCLOS.

But this distinction is beside the point, Batongbacal said. As far as the law is concerned, the Vietnamese fishermen violated the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, he added.

Under Section 87 of the law, it is unlawful for foreign entities to operate their fishing vessels in Philippine waters. Any entry shall already constitute a prima facie evidence.

“The law already presumes them to be engaged in poaching. It’s the Vietnamese who must show proof that they were not fishing,” Batongbacal said.

The law penalizes offenders with a fine not exceeding $100,000, or P5,093,400, and confiscation of the catch, fishing paraphernalia and vessel.

The VERA Files source, however, said it would be difficult to establish and prove that the Vietnamese fishermen committed poaching because there are circumstances that must first be met before a foreign vessel’s activity can be considered poaching.

Vietnam is an ally of the Philippines, notably when it supported its position against China before the Arbitral Tribunal, which later ruled China’s claim to resources in the South China Sea had no legal basis and its nine-dash line invalid.

In 2015, the Philippines signed a strategic partnership agreement with Vietnam that reaffirmed “their commitment to resolve territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means.”

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, former maritime officer, said in a September 26 press release the incident happened because of the absence of a clear direction in handling the maritime situation.

It “gives us a picture of the dangers and tension in the area amid territorial disputes and competition over resources,” he said.

He called on the administration to come up with a strategy that would provide policies and guide actions for all stakeholders, especially the fishermen.

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VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/10/01/1744485/philippine-navy-fault-death-2-vietnamese-fishermen-probe-finds

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Philippines and Vietnam Have Legal Claims in the South China Sea; China Does Not — Philippine Supreme Court Senior Justice Has a Way To Follow The Law

August 4, 2017
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War never is an option. Diplomacy can fortify the UN ruling on Manila’s row with Beijing. Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio enumerates some diplomatic initiatives, in a presentation to the Stratbase-Albert del Rosario Institute. Third of four parts:

There is no world policeman or sheriff to enforce the arbitral ruling. However, states that ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea expressly bound themselves to comply in good faith with decisions of arbitral tribunals created under UNCLOS. China is reneging on this treaty obligation.

The option for the Philippines is not “talk or go to war with China.” This is a false option, and shows a dismal lack of understanding of international law and relations.

First, the Philippine Constitution prohibits war as instrument of national policy. Second, the UN Charter has outlawed war as a means of settling disputes between states. In resolving the SCS dispute, war is not and has never been an option. That is precisely why the Philippines filed the arbitration case against China.

If the Philippines starts a war against China, it would surely lose, and lose badly. If the Philippines is the aggressor, that will violate the Constitution and the UN Charter. The Philippines cannot invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty because the treaty is only for defense, not for aggression. President Duterte’s oft-repeated question – whether the US will support and join the Philippines if we go to war against China – is a misguided question because the US is not bound by the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty to support any act of aggression by the Philippines. If the US joins the Philippines in a war of aggression, the US will also be in breach of the UN Charter.

China itself does not want to start a war because war will give the US an excuse to intervene in the SCS dispute, since to defend itself the Philippines will certainly invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty. China’s strategy is to control the SCS without firing a shot. Those who raise the issue of war with China either do not understand the Three Warfares Strategy of China, or are scaring the Filipino people to submit to China’s designs in the SCS.

The real and practical option for the Philippines is to “talk with China while taking measures to fortify the arbitral ruling.” We should talk with China on the COC, on the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) for naval and coast guard vessels, on conservation of fish stocks, on preservation of maritime environment, and on how our fishermen can fish in Scarborough Shoal. There are many other things to talk with China on the SCS dispute even if China refuses to discuss the arbitral ruling.

As we talk with China, we can fortify the ruling in many ways:

(1) The Philippines can enter into a sea boundary agreement with Vietnam on our overlapping Extended Continental Shelves in the Spratlys, based on the ruling of the tribunal that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generates an EEZ. Such an agreement implements part of the arbitral ruling by state practice.

(2) The Philippines can enter into a sea boundary agreement with Malaysia on our overlapping EEZ and ECS in the Spratlys, again based on the ruling that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generates an EEZ. Such agreement also implements part of the ruling by state practice.

(3) The Philippines can file an ECS claim beyond our 200 NM EEZ in the West Philippine Sea off the coast of Luzon. If China does not oppose, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) will award the ECS to the Philippines, similar to our ECS claim in Benham Rise where there was no opposition. If China opposes our ECS claim, it will have a dilemma on what ground to invoke. If China invokes the nine-dashed lines again, the UNCLCS will reject the opposition because the UNCLCS is bound by the ruling of the arbitral tribunal which, like the UNCLCS, was created under UNCLOS. If China claims an overlapping ECS, then China will be admitting that the Philippines has a 200 NM EEZ from Luzon that negates the nine-dashed lines.

(4) The arbitral tribunal has ruled that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generates an EEZ. The Philippines can initiate an agreement among all ASEAN disputant states – Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Philippines – declaring that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generate an EEZ that could overlap with their respective EEZs. Even if only the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia will agree to this declaration, it will clearly remove any maritime delimitation dispute among them, leaving only the territorial disputes. This will isolate China as the only state claiming an EEZ from geologic features in the Spratlys.

(5) The Philippines can claim damages before an UNCLOS tribunal for the “severe, permanent harm” to the marine environment, as ruled by the arbitral tribunal, that China caused within Philippine EEZ in the Spratlys because of China’s dredging and its failure to stop Chinese fishermen from harvesting endangered species.

(6) In case China shows signs of reclaiming Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines can file a new case before an UNCLOS arbitral tribunal to stop the reclamation because any reclamation in Scarborough Shoal will destroy the traditional fishing ground common to fishermen from the Philippines, Vietnam and China as ruled by the tribunal.

The ruling involves only maritime, not territorial issues. Enforcing it does not mean forcibly evicting China from the islands and high-tide elevations it occupies in the SCS, as occupation of these geologic features is a territorial issue. There are still many commentators in media who fail to distinguish between territorial and maritime disputes, and thus wrongly conclude that enforcing the ruling means going to war with China on the territorial dispute. (More on Monday)

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http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/08/04/1724629/enforce-un-ruling-carpio-lists-ways

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

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Asean goes soft on China

August 2, 2017
In a draft statement, ASEAN foreign ministers said they tasked the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Consultation (ACSOC) mechanism to begin discussions on a substantive and effective COC on the basis of the framework as soon as possible. File

MANILA, Philippines –  The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is seen to take a softer stand on China’s aggressive moves in disputed waters and to highlight instead the conclusion of negotiations on a framework of the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC).

The latest talks on the COC were held on May 18 in Guiyang, China.

In a draft statement, ASEAN foreign ministers said they tasked the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Consultation (ACSOC) mechanism to begin discussions on a substantive and effective COC on the basis of the framework as soon as possible.

ASEAN and China are set to endorse a framework for a COC that will regulate the future behavior of the parties concerned during the meeting in Manila this week. The framework will be endorsed for eventual crafting of a COC.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the framework, completed ahead of the mid-2017 goal set by the leaders of ASEAN and China, contains elements which the parties have agreed to.

But the draft does not call for a legally binding COC, as some ASEAN countries had wanted.

Pending conclusion of a substantive COC, the ministers reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation and overflight in and above the South China Sea.

“In this regard, we underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) in its entirety,” the draft communiqué said.

“Taking note of concerns expressed by some ministers over recent developments in the area, we reaffirmed the importance of enhancing mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, pursuing mutually agreed practical maritime areas of cooperation, and avoiding unilateral actions in disputed features that may further complicate the situation in keeping with the principle of peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to the threat or use of force,” the draft statement said.

The draft communiqué did not mention the July 12, 2016 arbitral ruling in favor of the Philippines.

‘Philippines should seek enforcement of arbitral award’

But Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the Philippines should seek enforcement of the arbitration ruling against China on disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio said this after warning that a joint venture with China on the disputed islands would violate the Constitution.

Carpio said the Duterte administration should instead push for its territorial rights stemming from the government’s victory before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

He raised suggestions as the country is set to host next week the ASEAN foreign ministers for the framework of the COC for claimants in the maritime row.

Among the options for the government, according to Carpio, is to initiate an agreement among all ASEAN members with territorial claims in the South China Sea like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia to declare that no geologic feature in the Spratly Islands generates an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that could overlap among countries as ruled by the PCA.

He also suggested that the Philippines enter into sea boundary agreements with Vietnam and Malaysia on overlapping EEZ on the extended continental shelf claim in the Spratlys.

Carpio explained such agreements would implement part of the arbitral ruling that no geologic feature in the Spratly Islands generates an EEZ.

“Even if only the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia will agree to this declaration, it will clearly remove any maritime delimitation dispute among them leaving, only the territorial disputes,” the magistrate said in an interview.

He explained that such declarations would also isolate China as the only state claiming an EEZ from geologic features in the Spratly islands.

The SC justice said another option would be to file before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf an extended continental shelf (ECS) claim beyond the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ in the West Philippine Sea off the coast of Luzon.

Carpio believes that the UN body would likely award the ECS claim to the Philippines since China would not participate in the process and oppose it. This would be similar to the Philippines’ ECS claim in Benham Rise, which was unopposed.

“If China opposes our ECS claim, China would have a dilemma on what ground to invoke,” he stressed, adding that China cannot invoke its nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea as the CLCS is bound by the PCA ruling under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Carpio reiterated that the Philippines can file a new case before the UNCLOS tribunal if China starts reclamation activities in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as this would destroy the traditional fishing ground of Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen.

Carpio earlier criticized the policy of the Duterte administration on the territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea for “setting aside” the PCA award won by the legal team, of which he was part.

He said the policy is “without discernible direction coherence of vision” and “relies more on improvisation than on long-term strategy.”

But the SC justice clarified the blame does not fall on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), because it is Duterte who is the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy.

DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar earlier said the PCA ruling might not be mentioned in the framework to be approved by the ASEAN foreign ministers.

The official said the framework would be “generic” and would only outline the nature of the code of conduct for parties in the dispute.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/03/1724206/asean-goes-soft-china

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

 

South China Sea: One Year After The Philippines Win At The Permanent Court of Arbitration — Brilliant Statecraft or Treason?

July 12, 2017

By Ellen Tordesillas

Posted at Jul 12 2017 02:46 AM

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One of the good things that President Duterte has done was to rekindle relations with China which reached its lowest ebb during the administration of Benigno Aquino III.

Never mind that during the election campaign, he rode on the anti-China sentiments of most Filipinos fueled by the pro-American leanings of Aquino and his Foreign Secretary, Albert del Rosario.

Remember, a standard in Duterte’s campaign speech was his boast that he will ride on a jet ski to one of the islands in the disputed Spratlys and plant the Philippine flag. He would kiss the flag to dramatize his promise. Once in Malacanang, he was asked when he was going to jetski to Spratlys and he replied it was a joke. He said he didn’t even know how to swim.

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In the guise of independent foreign policy, Duterte didn’t just cozy up to China. He attacked the United States when then President Barack Obama reminded him to respect human rights amid reports of rampant killings in connection with his anti-illegal drugs campaign.

His foreign policy moves can be likened to a pendulum that swung from extreme right to extreme left. Today marks first year anniversary of the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands on the case filed by the Philippines against China on the latter’s activities in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

China did not participate in the Arbitral Court proceedings.

It was a major victory for the Philippines. The Arbitral Court declared invalid China’s nine-dashed line map which covers some 85 percent of the whole South China which infringes on the economic exclusive zones of other countries namely the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

The Arbitral Court also ruled that China’s  artificial islands – rocks that were turned into garrisons through reclamation – in the disputed South China Sea do not generate entitlements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea such as economic exclusive zone (220 nautical miles from the shore) and extended continental shelf (350 nautical miles).

As to Scarborough or Panatag Shoal, which is within the Philippine EEZ, the Arbitral Court said it’s a traditional fishing ground of Philippine, Chinese, Vietnamese and fishermen of other nationalities and should be maintained as such.

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Filipino fishermen had been denied access to the area since April 2012 after a two-month stand off between Chinese and Philippine Coastguards following arrest by a Philippine warship of Chinese fishermen in Scarborough shoal. Two Chinese ships remained even after the Aquino government withdrew its ships.

Duterte takes pride that because of his friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Filipino fishermen are now allowed to fish in the area, which is being guarded by two Chinese ships.

It’s like a battered wife thankful that the husband has stopped beating her.

Duterte’s critics have scored his deference to China even  echoing  the position of China that historically South China Sea is theirs  as the name states.

In an ambush interview last April. Duterte said, “They really claim it as their own, noon pa iyan. Hindi lang talaga pumutok nang mainit. Ang nagpainit diyan iyong Amerikano. Noon pa iyan, kaya (It goes way back. The issue just did not erupt then. What triggered the conflict were the Americans. But it goes all the way back. That’s why it’s called) China Sea… sabi nga nila (they say) China Sea, historical na iyan. So hindi lang iyan pumuputok (It’s historical. The issue just had not erupted then) but this issue was the issue before so many generations ago.”

VERA Files fact-check about the name of South China Sea showed  that  South China Sea used to be called the Champa Sea, after the Cham people who established a great maritime kingdom in central Vietnam from the late 2nd to the 17th century.

That is contained in the book,  ‘The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea” by  Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Carpio said it was the  Portuguese navigators who coined the name South China Sea.

“The ancient Malays also called this sea Laut Chidol or the South Sea, as recorded by Pigafetta in his account of Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world from 1519 to 1522. In Malay, which is likewise derived from the Austronesian language, laut means sea and kidol means south,” he further said.

“The ancient Chinese never called this sea the South China Sea. Their name for the sea was “Nan Hai” or the South Sea, he adds.

Reading Duterte’s blurting the Chinese line on the South China name, Ruben Carranza, former commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government and now director of the Reparative Justice Program at the International Center for Transitional Justice, said “In football, that would be an ‘own goal.’

That’s when a player delivers the ball to the opponent’s goal.

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http://news.abs-cbn.com/blogs/opinions/07/11/17/opinion-ph-win-in-arbitral-court-one-year-after

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Dominance of the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean would solidify China’s One Belt One Road project
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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.
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China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning at Hong Kong
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Some Countries Defy China’s Ban on South China Sea Fishing

June 14, 2017

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China is enforcing new limits on fishing in the South China Sea, despite protests from countries with fishing operations in the disputed waterway.

The Chinese government said it began a new fishing moratorium last month to protect fishing stocks. The moratorium lasts for three months, 30 days longer than in previous years. It also covers more fishing operations than previous moratoriums.

Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines all claim control over waters within the area covered by the moratorium. Some fishing boat operators in those countries are defying the moratorium.

The Vietnamese government criticized the moratorium, questioning its legality.

The Philippines government has been working with China to resolve trade disputes and has not commented on the new fishing moratorium.

Taiwan’s government gives awards to fishing boat operators who set their own fishing limits. The government said it would assist fishing operators affected by the new Chinese fishing rules.

Taiwanese boats are known to follow blue-fish tuna in the South China Sea.

Chiu Chui-cheng is an official with the Taiwan government’s Mainland Affairs Council. He said Taiwan officials are ready to order rescue missions “to protect the safety of fishing crews and their vessels.”

“So we ask that our Taiwanese friends in the fishing industry relax,” he said.

Taiwanese fishing boats flying national flags prepare to leave for Taiping Island in 2016. Taiwan and China have disputing claims in the South China Sea.

Taiwanese fishing boats flying national flags prepare to leave for Taiping Island in 2016. Taiwan and China have disputing claims in the South China Sea.

China has enforced previous South China Sea fishing moratoriums by arresting fishing boat operators. But analysts said many fishing operators know the best areas to fish to avoid drawing attention of Chinese officials.

Murray Hiebert is an area expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said China is likely to use different enforcement methods against violators of its fishing moratorium.

They include taking control of fishing boats, arresting boat operators or sinking boats whose operators do not follow orders from Chinese authorities

Hiebert said, “Some Vietnamese fishing boats will continue going out to fish and risk harassment or arrests. Others are likely to hang back to avoid trouble.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis praised China for working to limit North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But he said the United States would not accept a Chinese military buildup on islands in the South China Sea.

Mattis made the comments while attending a recent meeting in Singapore.

Chinese Foreign Minister official Hua Chunying responded to Mattis by saying China will continue to “safeguard” its claims to the South China Sea.

But Hua said China remains ready to “peacefully” resolve disputes to uphold the “peace and stability of the South China Sea.”

Ralph Jennings reported on this story for VOA News. Bruce Alpert adapted the story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on our Facebook Page.

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/some-countries-defy-china-ban-on-south-china-sea-fishing/3897179.html

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FILE photo provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac —  A Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

Time To Take Action To Defend The Philippines

June 13, 2017
OPINION
/ 12:22 AM June 13, 2017

I meant to write on Rizal and President Duterte, but taking part in the Defend Democracy Summit at the UP School of Economics on Monday brought me face to face with the human toll of the Duterte administration’s irresolution in defending the West Philippine Sea. We must make time to understand the Duterte era from a historical perspective; on Thursday, the Inquirer and the De La Salle University seek to do just that, with a historians’ forum on Philippine independence and the rise of China. But today—today I want to talk about Norma and Ping and the fishermen in Zambales they represent.

Let me belabor the obvious: The Defend Democracy Summit was called out of the sense that democracy in the Philippines today needs to be defended. The organizers defined four areas that needed defending: national sovereignty, human rights, democratic institutions, truth.

Assigned to the first workshop, I had the chance to listen to Prof. Jay Batongbacal, one of the world’s leading experts on the South China Sea disputes. (I added a few words on the Chinese view, from confusion in the 1930s about the location of the Spratlys to allegations in the English-language Chinese press of Philippine aggression in 2016.) In the discussion that followed, the diversity of the perspectives represented was striking: women, businessmen, students, environmentalists, political activists, fisherfolk. I was especially impressed by the intensity of the intervention of the likes of Norma and Ping, who represented fishermen from Zambales whose lives and livelihood are increasingly at risk.

 

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Not for lack of trying: The fishermen are organized, conduct roundtables in their communities, connect to local and national reporters. But since the start of the Duterte administration, they have found themselves at the mercy of the Chinese—and the authorities do not seem to be of any help. One of the representatives spoke of a recent incident where Chinese fishermen were arrested while poaching in internal waters, and a Chinese Embassy official appeared to tell police officers: “Philippine law does not apply to them (the poachers).” (I will try to get to the bottom of this incident.) He also vigorously rejected media reports that Filipino fishermen can now fish inside Scarborough Shoal.

A group of Zambales fishermen has been conducting meetings and workshops among themselves. In their last workshop, they came up with a list of five demands, in Filipino, that illustrates the immediate effect of the government’s failure to protect their way of life.

The five demands they addressed to the Duterte administration include:

Remove China’s illegal structures and stop certain practices that only favor China.

Allow fishermen to fish and to seek cover in Scarborough Shoal in times of typhoons and calamities.

Provide livelihood for fishermen’s families affected (by Chinese control of Scarborough Shoal since 2012).

Avoid classifying Scarborough as a marine sanctuary because in the end this will only become a fishing area for China.

Stop the illegal quarrying in Zambales used for the reclamation (of Chinese-occupied reefs) and the building of Chinese military structures, in the West Philippine Sea.

Another representative warned: “In five years, maybe in two years, Zambales will be out”—meaning out of fish stock, because of aggressive Chinese fishing.

Yesterday, June 12, was the 90th birthday of an extraordinary teacher who is, amazingly, still teaching. Onofre Pagsanghan, better known to generations of students at the Ateneo de Manila High School, and to thousands of students and parents who have heard his lectures in different schools across the country, as Mr. Pagsi, was—is—a spellbinding speaker. His gift is equal parts heart and craft; a lifetime of integrity and excellence becomes visible through his lectures, even his casual remarks.

What a privilege it was to study under him.

On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/104727/remove-chinas-illegal-structures#ixzz4js4z0UQu
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FILE photo provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac —  A Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

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(Contains links to previous related articles)

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

Winning against China

June 13, 2017

This is the final column based on Justice Antonio Carpio’s e-book The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea. I summarize here Justice Carpio’s interpretation of the decision of the arbitral tribunal in the Permanent Court of Arbitration that upheld the Philippine positions on most issues. I also share Justice Carpio’s suggestions on how the Arbitral Award can be enforced.

On the Scarborough Shoal, the Tribunal ruled that the Shoal is a high-tide elevation entitled to a 12-nautical mile territorial sea but not to a 200-NM exclusive economic zone since obviously it is not capable of human habitation. The territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal, which includes the lagoon, is however a traditional fishing ground of Filipino, Chinese, and Vietnamese fishermen. In any case, China cannot prevent Filipino fishermen from fishing in the territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal.

China claims the Scarborough Shoal because the shoal was allegedly the observation point in the South China Sea where Guo Shoujing erected in 1279 CE an astronomical observatory. This claim is belied by the fact that China had already identified Xisha (the Paracels) as the observation point when China presented its argument against Vietnam in 1980. As clearly pointed out by Carpio: “The biggest rock on Scarborough Shoal is just 1.2 meters above water at high tide, and not more than six to 10 people can stand on it.  It is physically impossible to erect, or operate, the massive astronomical observatories of Guo Shoujing on the tiny rocks of Scarborough.”

As regard the environment, the arbitral tribunal ruled that China violated its obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to “protect and preserve the marine environment” when China: (a) Dredged and built islands on seven reefs;  (b)Failed to prevent its fishermen from harvesting endangered species like sea turtles, corals, and giant clams in the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal.

Other issues raised on which the arbitral tribunal has ruled are:

China violated the exclusive right of the Philippines to its EEZ when China: (a) Interfered with fishing activities of Filipino fishermen within Philippine EEZ, including imposing a fishing moratorium within Philippine EEZ; (b) Interfered with petroleum activities of Philippine-commissioned vessels within Philippine EEZ; (c) Failed to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing within Philippine EEZ; and (d) Constructed an artificial island and structures on an LTE (Mischief Reef) within Philippine EEZ.

China also violated its obligation not to aggravate the dispute during the arbitration when China: (a) Dredged the reefs, reclaimed and built the islands while the proceedings were ongoing, and; Destroyed the evidence of the natural condition of the geologic features at issue when China dredged and reclaimed them while the proceedings were ongoing.

Finally,  China violated its obligation to observe maritime safety when Chinese coast guard vessels crossed the path of Philippine vessels at high speed.

In conclusion, Justice Carpio suggests ways forward in the enforcement of the arbitral award, namely: (a) Enforcement of the award by the world’s naval powers with respect to freedom of navigation and overflight for military vessels and aircraft; and, (b)  Enforcement of the award by the Philippines with respect to its exclusive right to exploit the resources of its EEZ in the South China Sea.

On the first enforcement method, Justice Carpio observed that naval powers such as the United States, France and Great Britain can enforce the award by sailing and flying, and conducting military activities, in the high seas and EEZs of the South China Sea.

On the second method of enforcement, the Philippines can do several things, such as suing in a jurisdiction that ratified UNCLOS, move before the International Seabed Authority for the suspension of China’s exploration permits in the area, move before the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) for the suspension of China’s application for an ECS in the East China Sea, can negotiate its maritime boundaries with Malaysia (EEZ and ECS) and Vietnam (ECS), applying the Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling that no geologic feature in the Spratlys generates an EEZ and that the nine-dashed line has no legal effect on maritime entitlements, can delineate its ECS from Luzon and file its claim with the CLCS, there being no legal impediment from the nine-dashed line, and the Philippine navy and coast guard vessels and aircraft can continue to patrol  Philippine EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.

As a final word, Justice Carpio emphasized that the leaders of our nation must exercise utmost deliberation, consistency, and perseverance in seeking ways to enforce what the arbitral tribunal has finally awarded to the Philippines as its own EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.  Silence or inaction is no way to go as this can be interpreted as a state’s acceptance of a factual or legal situation.

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Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

It is fitting to end this series this week, when we celebrate Independence Day of the Philippines. There can be no real independence without securing our sovereignty.  President Duterte’s approach to foreign policy, while laudable for its independence, has been reckless on its defense of national territory. Thankfully, we have Justice Antonio Carpio to remind our leaders of what needs to be done, I reiterate what I said at the beginning of this series, Justice Tony is a hero, a defender of the country’s territory and of our Constitution. Let’s be thankful for that.

Facebook: Dean Tony La Vina Twitter: tonylavs

http://thestandard.com.ph/opinion/columns/eagle-eyes-by-tony-la-vina/239177/winning-against-china.html

Related:

(Contains links to previous related articles)

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

How China’s demand for a $30K fish bladder drives poaching, trafficking and wildlife extinction

May 18, 2017

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A boat full of totoaba and its crew took the illegal catch to shore while being photographed with a Sea Shepherd drone. (photo courtesy of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

An hourlong flight east of Hong Kong in the Chinese port city of Shantou, traders cater to affluent businessmen quietly looking to drop up to $30,000 dollars on a single fish bladder.

While these transactions are punishable by large fines and even time behind bars, a covert investigation by a nonprofit advocacy group has found that weak, perhaps corrupt, law enforcement allows fishermen, import-export companies and perhaps drug cartels to profit in an international supply chain that stretches from Asia back to Southern California and Mexico.

Chinese culture has believed for centuries that the organ — known locally as gold coin fish maw — has lifesaving properties. While science has yet to prove the health benefits, the dried bladder is often kept for emergencies — for use as part of a medicinal soup. It’s also gifted and displayed in homes as a status symbol.

“In Shantou, gold coin fish maw is usually treated as the priceless treasure of a shop, so they are not labeled a price and not on sale (openly),” a local trader in March told an undercover investigator with the Los Angeles-based Elephant Action League, a recently established organization that gathers intelligence on wildlife crimes.

This week, the nonprofit issued its report exposing the illegal fish-bladder trade in China and its consequences thousands of miles away. The league said it intends to expand its watchdog work on this issue in the coming months.

By the mid-20th century, Chinese demand for certain fish bladders had eviscerated stocks of the giant yellow croaker, which once thrived off China’s coast. If a person is lucky enough to catch one of these rare fish today, it can fetch as much as half a million dollars on the black market.

Enthusiasm for fish bladders went unnoticed for decades by many in the West. However, in recent years that has changed as desire for the illicit product has led to the near extinction of the vaquita porpoise, which lives in Baja California and is the most endangered marine mammal on the planet.

The totoaba, a 120-pound fish found in the Upper Gulf of Mexico, has a bladder that resembles that of the croaker’s — making it a prime target of poaching. It’s suspected that drug cartels pay local fishermen in the region to catch the fish and deliver the prized organ.

While the six-foot-long totoabas are then dumped back into the sea, their dried bladders are shipped to Asia. At retail pricing, each bladder can fetch from $6,700 to more than $30,000 depending on its weight and other characteristics.

A gold coin fish maw at a store in the Chinese port city of Shantou,

In the process, the nylon gillnets used to catch totoabas in the murky waters off of the fishing village of San Felipe in Baja California also ensnare and suffocate a number of other wildlife species, including whales, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, rays — and those imperiled vaquitas.

Scientists with international conservation groups estimate that fewer than 30 vaquitas remain today, down from about 567 two decades ago. The totoaba is also considered by international treaty to be endangered. It’s unknown exactly how many are left.

The Elephant Action League’s undercover team, which includes retired law-enforcement officers from around the globe, visited more than two dozen shops in Shantou, China and the surrounding region in March. The area is believed to be a main trading hub for the bladders.

“They pretend to be buyers or traders,” said Andrea Crosta, executive director and co-founder of the league, which employs a handful of full-time staff members and a network of about a couple dozen contractors around the world. “They wear undercover cameras. We come back with audio and video that back up our words,” he said.

Many shop owners at first hesitated to speak with the league’s investigators, but eventually opened up and displayed their priciest fish maws. After the Chinese government began paying more attention to the illicit trade in recent years, many merchants responded by selling only to trusted customers and behind closed doors.

However, this level of caution wasn’t universal.

“Chinese laws on illegal wildlife trafficking are very harsh, but the problem is the implementation,” Crosta said. “It’s not enough to just have the laws. They have to be enforced.”

China’s government launched a campaign last fall to educate merchants on Chinese and Mexican laws banning totoaba fishing and bladder sales. Still, none of shop owners interviewed by the league could recall any seizures by law enforcement in their region.

On Nan’ao Island, a historical trading hub for fish maws just off the coast of Shantou, an investigator probed a dealer for information.

“If it’s illegal, why do you put them on display?” the investigator asked.

“Because (when) the government comes to check, they call and inform us earlier, and we will hide them when they come,” the merchant explained.

Several shop owners advised the investigators to purchase only the most expensive gold coin fish maw to use as an important business gift or to bribe a government official for an especially lucrative contract.

Investigators found a steady flow of totoaba bladders coming from Mexico into China, and many traders said that’s because they’re betting on a collapse of the species. The merchants frequently said people buy the gold coin fish maws as investments, speculating that demand will eventually outpace supply and dramatically drive up market values.

A primary smuggling route for totoaba bladders is believed to be from Mexico into the U.S. and then to Hong Kong and China, according to the new report. Thailand, which critics said also suffers from lax enforcement, is thought to be another key stopover for some shipments.

Shop owners in Shantou said most of the fish bladders were coming from a port on the U.S.-Mexico border, transported in shipping containers alongside legal products such as codfish bladders.

Mexican and U.S. officials have called the totoaba bladder “aquatic cocaine.” In fact, it’s often more expensive, with about two pounds of dried bladder routinely selling for as much as three and a half pounds of the powder drug.

Wildlife trafficking in general is big business, with an estimated annual value of $2 billion in the U.S. and up to $23 billion globally, according to a 2015 report from the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C. It is routinely ranked among the top illicit trades worldwide.

Moving illegal animal and plant products has drawn the attention of organized crime. In Baja California, drug cartels have been blamed for paying local fishermen to poach the totoaba bladders and then smuggling the contraband.

The value of totoaba bladders in Mexico is approximately $1,500 apiece, according to some law-enforcement agencies. The pricing surges to about $5,000 per bladder after the organ is smuggled into the U.S.

It’s thought that trafficking of totoaba bladders attracts a lot of opportunists because it’s lucrative and relatively low-risk. Even people on the front lines moving the product rarely face consequences in China, Mexico or the U.S., judging by the scant number of prosecutions in those countries.

“The number of cases have (recently) decreased,” said Michelle Zetwo of San Diego, a special agent with the law-enforcement division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “That either tells me that the demand is down in China or they’re beating us coming across the border somehow. Or they’re shipping it directly from Mexico to China.”

The most high-profile totoaba case involved the prosecution of a man, Song Shen Zhen, caught crossing the border from Calexico into the U.S. with several of the bladders. After he was let go, Border Patrol agents trailed him to a house where they discovered more than 200 other dried bladders, estimated to have a total street value in China of more than $3.6 million.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of California announced in 2014 that Shen Zhen was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay the Mexican government $120,500 in restitution. Under the law, he could have received up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In another case, Los Angeles-based furniture dealer Kam Wing Chan received probation and was ordered to pay $55,000 in restitution for, among other things, possession of several dozen swim bladders.

Fishermen in Baja California who catch totoaba largely have escaped serious fines and incarceration.

“Most of the illegal fishermen are not motivated by a little fine. It’s so lucrative,” said Oona Layolle, who heads an advocacy operation in the Upper Gulf of Mexico for the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. She oversees two boats that patrol the area, pull up banned gillnets and call in potential poaches to the Mexican navy.

“Every night we see 20 (illegal) fishermen around our ship on the radar, and I know they only arrested seven people in the last two years,” she added.

Mexico’s law-enforcement leaders are promising to step up efforts again the unsanctioned fishing and smuggling. Last month, its Congress voted to make such poaching a felony, and a boat with three or more people found catching totoaba can face charges of organized crime.

So far, these measures haven’t seemed to slow down fishermen in the upper Gulf, who sell totoaba bladders to middlemen in and around the town of San Felipe, said Sean Bogle, an investigative filmmaker with the nonprofit Wild Lens.

“A fisherman will go out and fish for totoaba, and they’re usually removing the bladder in the boat,” he said. “When they hit shore, there is an individual waiting for them, someone involved in an organized syndicate of sorts.”

Bogle recently directed the documentary “Souls of the Vermilion Sea,” which chronicles the impact of totoaba poaching on the dwindling vaquita population. In the process, he interviewed anglers and government officials close to the supply chain.

“From what I understand, going through the U.S. is the most common (smuggling) route,” Bogle said. “There’s definitely reports of it going out of San Diego, particularly on container ships.”

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/environment/sd-me-totoaba-smuggling-20170517-story.html

Chinese moving to dominate the South China Sea — An emerging environmental disaster has gone largely unnoticed

March 26, 2017

A sea in peril

While rival claimants jockey for strategic position in the South China Sea, an emerging environmental disaster has gone largely unnoticed

MARCH 25, 2017

China will soon host a dialogue with Southeast Asian nations aimed at managing tensions in the South China Sea. But it’s not clear whether the talks will help to save a marine environment that in parts is facing collapse.

While diplomats discuss the implementation of a code of conduct for rival claimants in the vast waterway, scientists say that the region’s marine environment also deserves attention, partly because overfishing on all sides is depleting fish stocks.

Chinese fishermen in search of valuable giant clams have destroyed vital coral reefs on a vast scale, although that practice now appears to be slowing.

Rachael Bale of National Geographic, who has written extensively on the South China Sea, aptly summed up the situation early this year, saying that “While politicians argue over which country controls the region, the fishery … is on the brink of collapse.”

Fishermen unload baskets of fish as they dock their boats at a port under the alert of Typhoon Kalmaegi, in Sanya, Hainan province September 14, 2014. China's marine forecast station issued a yellow alert as typhoon Kalmaegi is expected to enter the South China Sea on Monday morning, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT AGRICULTURE) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTR464V0

Overfished: Fishermen unload their catch in Hainan province, China. Photo: Reuters

According to The Nature Conservancy, overfishing is a common problem around the world. Maria Damanaki, global managing director for oceans at the Conservancy, explains that “when too few individual fish of breeding age remain, they simply don’t produce well …”

It is what she describes as “a lose-lose situation for both fishermen and conservationists.” The stakes are particularly high in the case of the South China Sea.

High stakes

Occupying more than 3.5 million square kilometers, the South China Sea is one of the world’s five leading fishing zones, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia.

The fishery employs more than 3 million people, contributes heavily to the global fish trade and provides a major source of vital protein to millions of people living in the nations that depend on it.

In addition, experts believe that huge reserves of oil and gas lie unexploited beneath the disputed waters.

Fishing boats are seen anchored in a bay as Typhoon Chan-Hom approaches southern China, in Wenling, Zhejiang province, July 8, 2015. Chinese authorities have suspended train services, closed schools and bought trawlers back to port before two typhoons in the south and east of the country make landfall later this week, state media said. Picture taken July 8, 2015. REUTERS/William Hong CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTX1JNFJ

Seafaring: Chinese fishing boats anchored in the bay. Photo: Reuters/William Hong

US Air Force Captain Adam Greer, who has done research partly funded by the National Defense University, says that the stakes in the South China Sea can be summed up by a “3 P’s rule”—politics, petroleum, and protein.

In an article published in The Diplomat, Greer argues that the protein derived from fish may be the most important factor driving competition in the South China Sea.

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The best news for the environment, one leading American scientist says, was a Chinese decision early this year to enforce regulations calling for a halt to the harvesting and processing by Chinese fishermen of giant clams in the South China Sea.

John McManus, a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami, said that the decision, announced by China’s southern Hainan province, could mark a major step toward helping to preserve and restore a vital part of the marine environment.

The giant clams are embedded in coral reefs that protect small fish from predators. The coral reefs also play a role in replenishing fish stocks.

This picture taken on July 19, 2013 shows giant clams on display in Tanmen, in China's southern Hainan Province. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO / AFP PHOTO / STR

In demand: Giant clams for sale in China’s southern Hainan Province. Photo: AFP

According to McManus, Chinese poachers using boat propellers to dig up reefs and uncover the clams have caused widespread damage to many of the reefs. Chinese dredging aimed at gathering sand and gravel to build artificial islands has caused further serious damage.

The highly valued shells of the clams have been carved much like elephant ivory into intricate ornaments for sale to Chinese tourists visiting Hainan Island. Some Chinese regard the meat from the clams as a rare delicacy and an aphrodisiac.

Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that the biggest factor in reducing the giant clam shell trade may be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

“As the crackdown on corruption has spread, people are understandably hesitant to accept jewelry or statues made from poached giant clams,” Poling said.

Products made from giant clam shells are displayed inside a store in the seaside town of Tanmen in China's Hainan province May 10, 2016. Picture taken May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Farah Master - RTX2IKU7

Shiny wears: Products made from giant clam shells at Tanmen town in China’s Hainan province. Photo: Reuters/Farah Master

Zhang Hongzhou, a research fellow at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, says that it appears the crackdown on the giant clam trade has been “very decisive, at least as of now.”

The local government on Hainan Island, he says, also intends to promote “fishing tourism” as an alternative source of income for the local fishermen.

But Zhang says that he sees some evidence that the price for giant clams is rising, which could lead to an underground trade that spurs illegal harvesting.

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Coral rubble remains after Chinese “chopper” boats killed branching corals, which were subsequently further broken up by  blast fishing.  John McManus/Rosenstiel School, University of Miami

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Dr. John McManus, professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

The various nations involved in the South China Sea, including China, have laws aimed at preserving the marine environment. But the problem so far has been a lack of implementation.

Talks bring hope

China’s recent negotiations with Vietnam have offered another source of hope. During a recent visit to Beijing, Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary, signed 15 agreements dealing, among other things, with economic cooperation, defense relations and tourism.

But another development points to potential conflict.

Satellite photos taken by the firm Planet Labs on March 6 show the clearing of land by China for possible new construction in the disputed Paracel Islands. Taiwan and Vietnam claim the Paracels as their territory.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Photo taken May 2016. U.S. Navy/Handout

Chinese dredging vessels in the South China Sea in 2016. Photo: US Navy/handout

Last month China’s agriculture ministry announced a fishing ban, including over a number of areas claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, among others, in the South China Sea, that would last from May 1 to August 16. The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry strongly objected to the ban, which it described as “unilateral.”

Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

At the same time, on the diplomatic front, China claims to be drafting a new code of conduct with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), although some experts doubt that diplomats can complete it as promised by the end of this year.

A non-binding code of conduct resolution signed by China and ASEAN in 2002 included brief mention of cooperative “marine environmental protection,” contingent on a comprehensive and durable settlement of the disputes.

South China Sea disputed islands

Marine biology expert McManus says that effectively managing the marine environment will require peaceful relations among the nations whose fishermen, and the Coast Guards backing them, have clashed frequently in recent years.

McManus proposes that a “marine peace park” be established in the Spratly Islands and that a freeze on territorial claims be imposed as part of an agreement. But satellite images showing the clearing of land on North Island in the Paracels group makes a freeze seem unlikely any time soon.

A Vietnamese Coast Guard officer took a picture of a China Coast Guard ship moving toward his vessel, which is near the site of a Chinese drilling oil rig being installed in disputed water.

A Vietnamese Coast Guard officer took a picture of a China Coast Guard ship moving toward his vessel, which is near the site of a Chinese drilling oil rig being installed in disputed water. AFP/getty images

Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the Australian Defense Force Academy, describes the Paracels as “vital to any future Chinese attempt to dominate the South China Sea.” But as long as the territorial disputes drag on, the maritime area’s environment will likely continue to pay a high cost.

Dan Southerland is the former executive editor of Radio Free Asia

 

Related:

 — From March 25, 2017 with links to other related articles

National Geographic:

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A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo )

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A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

 

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, the Philippines, to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

 

 (This    article has links to several  others related to environmental issues in the South China Sea).

A green sea turtle is seen off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

 (Includes Obama creates largest ocean reserve, takes heat for new federal decrees)

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

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Filipino activists and Vietnamese nationals display placards and chant anti-China slogans as they march outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila’s Makati financial district on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on Friday, May 16, 2014, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. — PHOTO: REUTERS

 

 (August 25, 2016)

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China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

 (Contains links to several related articles)

August 17, 2015
ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

 

 

An elderly Vietnamese protester holds a placard during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese consulate in the financial district of Manila on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on May 16, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. Many Vietnamese remain uneasy with China in the South china sea till this day.  AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

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The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP

 

 

Philippines Prepares Protest vs China Over South China Sea Island Grab

March 21, 2017
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the administration’s planned course of action was in accordance with Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s suggestion that a strong formal protest against Beijing be filed with the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is preparing to formally protest China’s plan to install a radar station at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in violation of a ruling by a United Nations-backed international tribunal declaring the shoal a common fishing ground outside any country’s jurisdiction.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the administration’s planned course of action was in accordance with Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s suggestion that a strong formal protest against Beijing be filed with the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague.

“I think so, there will be (a protest to be filed). Medyo malakas-lakas ang ifa-file (A stronger one will be filed),” Aguirre said when asked about the issue in a chance interview.

Aguirre’s statement came on the heels of President Duterte’s voicing helplessness against China’s continued buildup of its forces in waters within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

But Aguirre assured the public that Duterte is committed to protect and defend the nation’s sovereignty despite the latter’s pronouncement that he could not stop China from building a structure at the shoal. “Definitely, he will not let go of (Panatag shoal),” Aguirre stressed.

“As a matter of fact, we are strengthening the relationship with the US,” Aguirre pointed out, indicating a potential shift from Duterte’s earlier declaration of separation from the US and a pivot to China.

The filing of a protest was among the five-point strategy suggested by Carpio for dealing with China’s reported plan to set up facilities at Panatag shoal.

The SC justice has also suggested sending Philippine Navy vessels to the shoal.

“If the Chinese attack Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine Navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” he pointed out.

Carpio also stressed the government may ask the US to declare the shoal part of Philippine territory and accept the superpower’s offer to hold joint patrols in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

The SC magistrate also advised Duterte to “avoid any act, statement or declaration that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.”

Carpio stressed that Panatag is part of the national territory under Republic Act No. 9522 (Philippine Baselines Law) and that President Duterte has the constitutional duty to defend it from China’s incursion.

He earlier warned that the installation of a radar system at the Panatag shoal will complete China’s air defense identification zone in the South China Sea.

In 2012, the Chinese seized the Panatag Shoal after a tense standoff with Philippine Navy personnel who had tried to arrest Chinese poachers in the area. The poachers were allowed to return to China with their illegal harvest of baby sharks, endangered corals and giant clams. The Chinese have never left the shoal since then.

A ruling in July last year by the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague upheld the Philippines’ entitlements in the West Philippine Sea but declared Panatag a common fishing ground. The shoal is only about 230 kilometers from the nearest coast in Luzon and close to 2,700 kilometers from China’s nearest coast in Hainan.

Defending sovereignty

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella made it clear Duterte has not surrendered the country’s sovereignty over Panatag Shoal or any other area within the country’s EEZ either seized or being coveted by China.

“He has said time and again that he will defend and protect the interests of the Filipino people and will take necessary action at a time most fitting and advantageous to us,” Abella said.

“Furthermore, PRRD has repeatedly asserted that RP is not giving up its claims and our entitlements over the area,” Abella said, referring to Duterte by his presidential initials.

He noted even China has not issued an official stand on reports it was preparing to build a radar station at Panatag Shoal. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), he said, is verifying such reports.

“The DFA is in the process of verifying alleged announcements of proposals to build structures in WPS (West Philippine Sea), since these statements do not reflect the official position of China,” he said.

Duterte earlier declared that the Philippines – with its weak armed forces – cannot stop Beijing from building a radar station at Panatag Shoal.

This prompted Carpio to remind Duterte of his constitutional duty to defend the country from Chinese incursion.

Panatag is part of the national territory, Carpio pointed out, as stipulated under the Philippine Baselines Law.

In his speech in Myanmar Monday, Duterte again ruled out invoking the UN arbitration ruling when dealing with Beijing. But he also vowed to raise the matter if and when China starts extracting mineral resources like oil or uranium in disputed areas.

“Now, if China starts getting oil or uranium or whatever that’s inside the bowels of the sea, I will do something and tell them, ‘We own it. You claim it by historical right, by judgment I won and it’s mine,’” he said.

Duterte also stressed he would not send forces to confront the Chinese in disputed areas to avoid bloodshed.

“First hour, they are finished already. We are not in a position to declare war,” he said.

“But I said to China that someday during my term as President, I will have to confront you about the arbitral ruling and that would be maybe, during the time when you begin to extract minerals and the riches of what is inside the bowels of the earth,” Duterte added.

Not defenseless

Meanwhile, the lawmaker who filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte has asked the President not to portray the country as defenseless against China’s maritime incursion.

“His statement that we cannot do anything is not true. In fact, we have a lot of non-military and non-confrontational options. He just doesn’t want to do them,” Rep. Gary Alejano of party-list group Magdalo said.

During the campaign, then candidate Duterte said if the Chinese intruded into Panatag, he would rush there in a jet ski to confront the intruders.

Alejano has described as “treason” the President’s admission that he had allowed a Chinese research ship to survey Benham Rise, which is part of the country’s territory.

He said Duterte’s statement on China’s building plan at Panatag Shoal “is a defeatist narrative fitting squarely to what China wants us to feel.”

The lawmaker advised the President to listen to Carpio and revisit various recommendations proposed in the past by national leaders and security officials to address Chinese intrusions into Philippine waters.

“He can consult his national security team and other leaders,” he added.

Alejano lamented the Duterte administration is speaking with discordant voices in dealing with China.

He noted that while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has denounced the presence of China’s research ship in Benham Rise, the President admitted he had allowed it without informing his defense chief.

Alejano urged the President to send the Coast Guard or even the Navy to patrol the Panatag Shoal area.

“The shoal is located 230 kilometers from Luzon, while it is 2,659 kilometers away from the Chinese mainland. Logistically, the replenishing of supplies such as food and fuel will be a challenge for China, not so for our troops since it is closer to our shores,” he said.

“We can strategically deploy and train our fishermen to utilize the natural resources in the area. We could provide them with study vessels and advanced communication system so that we could aid or defend them should they be threatened by Chinese ships,” he said.

He said Duterte should learn a lesson or two from Vietnam in protecting the country’s interest.

Alejano recalled that in one confrontation with China near the disputed Paracels, Vietnam lost several troops.

The former Marine captain said the country could also invoke its security alliance with the United States, Japan and Australia.

In case of a shooting war, he said he would be “more than willing to fight for our country.”

The military, for its part, said it is ready to deploy a navy ship – recently acquired from the US – to conduct oceanographic survey of Benham Rise.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office chief, said they are just awaiting a written order from Lorenzana or from the President for the deployment of BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702) to Benham Rise.

“We have one survey vessel and the Philippine Navy has the capability to do maritime research, but so far we don’t have the instructions,” Arevalo said. The other survey vessel acquired from the US was BRP Andres Bonifacio.  – With Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/03/22/1683442/philippines-prepares-protest-vs-china-over-panatag

Related:

 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.