AFP to protect Pinoy fishers from Chinese detention

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
AFP to protect Pinoy fishers from Chinese detention
Militant groups conduct a protest in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati yesterday, denouncing Beijing’s order to detain ‘trespassers’ in the South China Sea beginning this weekend.
Ryan Baldemor

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) can count on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for protection if China makes good its threat to detain for 60 days without trial foreign “trespassers” in what it considers its territorial seas, beginning today.

Beijing is claiming almost the entire South China Sea.

“China’s so called anti-trespassing policy undermines the rule of law and international norms that govern maritime conduct,” Philippine Navy spokesman for the WPS, Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, said.

“The presence and actions of its vessels in our waters are illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive. We will not be deterred or intimidated,” he added.

The AFP, particularly the Philippine Navy, declared that it would remain steadfast in its commitment to protect the nation’s rights and ensure the safety of its personnel and Filipinos in the WPS.

“We will continue our maritime patrols in areas within the Philippines’ jurisdiction,” the military said, without revealing details.

Beijing announced its “maritime administrative law enforcement” on May 15 the same day that the Atin Ito’s civilian mission to the Panatag Shoal of the WPS began.

The directive covers “foreigners suspected of violating entry and exit control.”

“In any of the following circumstances, if the suspicion cannot be ruled out after on-the-spot interrogation or continued interrogation and further investigation is required, the person may be detained for review with the approval of the person in charge of the coast guard agency,” Beijing’s directive read.

“We in the AFP have made some preparations. With us here are the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the other agencies concerned,” AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said.

“So we really have to work together, we should address this problem as one nation,” he said.

“We told them no to be afraid, but just to go ahead with their normal activities within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” he said, referring to fishermen.

“Remember, it’s our EEZ, we have the right to exploit the resources in the area. They don’t have to be afraid – the AFP, the Navy, and the PCG are there,” Brawner said.

Meanwhile, militant groups led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan rallied outside the Chinese embassy in Makati City to protest Beijing’s rule against “trespassers.”

Bayan secretary general Raymond Palatino said China is asserting its “imaginary” claim over the Philippine waters by being a bully.

“Its intrusion into our EEZ, its destructive reclamation activities, its poaching of marine resources, all of these reflect China’s aggression,” Palatino said in a statement.

Instead of threatening fishermen from the Philippines with arrest, Palatino said it is China which should stop trespassing in the Philippines’ territorial waters.

“We support our local fishers and laud their declaration that they will ignore and defy China’s baseless order,” he said. — Emmanuel Tupas

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