Philippines' former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario (L) speaks while Conchita Morales, former head of the anti-graft body listens during a press conference in Manila on March 22, 2019. The two former Philippine officials submitted a communication at the International Criminal Court (ICC) asking the tribunal to investigate the alleged crimes perpetrated by Chinese President Xi Jingping and other Chinese officials against Filipino fishermen in the disputed South China Sea.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Plight of Filipino fishers prompted ICC challenge vs China — Del Rosario
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - March 25, 2019 - 11:40am

MANILA, Philippines — The condition of Filipino fishermen being affected by Chinese presence in the West Philippine Sea was the primary concern in the communication submitted before the International Criminal Court, the former Foreign Affairs chief who filed it, said.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had urged the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor to conduct a preliminary examination into Chinese officials' actions in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

"Our estimate is that there are 300,000 fishermen that have had their livelihood affected plus that fact that the food security was a factor," Del Rosario told CNN Philippines' "The Source" Monday morning.

Del Rosario and Morales' communication to the ICC listed Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua as perpetrators.

The former high-ranking government officials noted that China's unlawful acts in the South China Sea "have caused devastating and long-lasting damage to the environment."

Blockade around Scarborough

Since 2012, Chinese officials have implemented a blockade around the Scarborough Shoal—officially Bajo de Masinloc to Manila—off the coast of Zambales, preventing Filipino fishermen from entering the traditional fishing ground.

"While the blockade against Filipino nationals subsists, Chinese officals have allowed Chinese fishermen to engage in harmful fishing practices around the shoal such as harvesting coral, giant clams, turtles, sharks and other threatened or endangered species, using dynamite to kill fish and destroy coral, and using cyanide to harvest live fish," the communication read.

Del Rosario pointed out that Beijing's actions in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the West Philippine Sea that Manila claims, have caused "near permanent" damage, which is a massive problem for the country.

'A move by private citizens'

Morales, meanwhile, stressed that any person can file a communication to the ICC to request for an examination on a matter of general concern.

"It could deprive, on a massive scale and widespread scale, the livelihood of the fishermen among the other marginalized people," Morales said.

On comments that the communication submitted before the ICC was a political move, Morales said they do not intend to drag politics in their movement.

"This is not a political move. It is a move undertaken by private citizens, by individuals who are minded to protect our marginalized fishermen," she said.

Forwarding the issue to the international court also proves that small countries can challenge powers such as China.

The former DFA chief noted that there has always been a notion that only small countries are subject to international law, which the Philippines had proven otherwise.

"If it doesn't work, we will at least have brought to the floor the abuses that are being endured by our people for which we should be doing something," Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario and Morales submitted the communication two days before the Philippines' withdrawal from the Rome Statue took effect.

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