AFP urged to defend Filipino fishermen from Chinese arrests

Helen Flores - Philstar.com
AFP urged to defend Filipino fishermen from Chinese arrests
This handout photo taken on Feb. 22, 2024 and received on Feb. 25, 2024 from the Philippine Coast Guard shows China Coast Guard personnel onboard a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (R) as they shadow a Philippine fishing boat (L) during the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) mission to bring supplies to fishermen near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea. The Philippines on February 25 accused the Chinese coast guard of attempting to block the Filipino government vessel BRP Datu Sanday delivering supplies to fishermen, the second such alleged incident near a disputed reef in two weeks.
Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — A senior administration lawmaker said the Armed Forces of the Philippines should make good its promise to protect Filipino fishermen from getting detained by Chinese enforcing Beijing’s regulation against “trespassers.”

“We are taking the military at its word that our fishermen have nothing to worry about because the AFP has their back and will provide protection to them against possible harassment from the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea,” Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said.

He said it would be best if the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources can establish stronger presence in the WPS for the protection of fisherfolk.

Villafuerte also voiced support for the plan of the Department of Justice, in tandem with the Office of the Solicitor General, to sue Beijing for the environmental damage its island-building activities had inflicted on marine environment in the West Philippine Sea.

“The opening of another legal front to protest China’s incursions into Philippine waters is certainly most welcome as part of the Marcos administration’s commitment to exhaust all means to bring to global attention – and generate broad international condemnation of – the nonstop bullying tactics of China in waters that are legally part of our maritime territory, as declared under the 1994 UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) and upheld by the 2016 arbitral ruling of the PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration) in The Hague,” he said.

He also said Beijing’s unilaterally imposed fishing ban in the South China Sea “has neither legal nor scientific basis.”

He noted that even the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea – a world court that resolves cases related to maritime disputes – has released an advisory opinion declaring that China has no right to claim any islands or rock features based on its nine-dash line – later expanded to 10-dash line.

Earlier, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. said China was apparently downplaying its harassment of the Philippines to an “action-drama debate.”

“They are trying to bait us by straying from the main points and dragging us into an action-drama debate, where we focus on minor details which stray us from the main message,” Teodoro told the media at the recent celebration of the Swedish National Day and reception for Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson.

“Let’s stick to the message,” he said.

“China wants us to go to the small details to forget the main message. The main message is: the 10-dash-line is the provocation. And everything flows from that,” he said.

“They have no business being anywhere in the West Philippine Sea and other areas where we have jurisdiction,” Teodoro said. — Sheila Crisostomo, Delon Porcalla, Michael Punongbayan

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