'China will scoop all fish in West Philippine Sea'

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
'China will scoop all fish in West Philippine Sea'
In this June 15, 2019 photo, fishermen at the San Jose fish port in Occidental Mindoro, which faces the West Philippine Sea, prepare to set sail before dawn.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos, file

MANILA, Philippines — Following the declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte that China can continue fishing in Philippine exclusive economic zone, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned that this would seriously deplete fish stocks in the West Philippine Sea.

The senior magistrate noted that China has the largest fishing fleet in the world with about 220,000 huge steel-hulled trawlers as opposed to Filipino fishermen's wooden boats.

"They can scoop the fish there in less than a year and if the fish will be gone, it will be depleted," Carpio told ANC's "Headstart" Tuesday.

Carpio further noted that China's fishing fleet go all the way to trawl in the waters of Africa and South America as there is no more fish in Chinese coastal waters.

On Duterte's remarks in his State of the Nation Address that he was only invoking traditional fishing rights, Carpio clarified that the arbitral ruling on traditional fishing only applies to the territorial sea and archipelagic waters.

The July 2016 landmark ruling of the arbitral tribunal ended traditional fishing rights by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), according to Carpio.

"However, of course a sovereign state being sovereign can allow, out of the goodness of their own heart, other countries to fish but we are 105 million people. There's not enough fish for us in the West Philippine Sea," Carpio said.

"Why will we allow the Chinese to fish when they can scoop all the fish and they don't allow us to fish in their own waters?" he added.

As the arbitral ruling already extinguished traditional fishing rights in the EEZ, China can only demand traditional fishing rights in territorial sea, such as the Scarborough Shoal.

Under the UNCLOS, the coastal state should determine if there is a surplus of fish stocks in their waters.

Carpio, however, noted that fish stocks in the West Philippine Sea has depleted to about 50% in the last 10 years.

"We cannot find galunggong anymore... Very few countries declare a surplus. Only the small states in the Pacific declare surplus because they're very small but they have huge exclusive economic zones," Carpio said.

Under the UNCLOS, the coastal state, in this case the Philippines, can give other states access to the surplus if the former does not have the capacity to harvest the entire allowable catch.

The UNCLOS also indicates that the coastal state should cosider factors, including the significance of living resources of the area to the country's economy and other national interests in giving access to other states to its EEZ.

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