The online news portal of TV5
MANILA -- (UPDATE) The Chinese summer fishing ban takes effect today, May 16, amid the still ongoing Scarborough standoff between China and the Philippines. But according to Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez, 10 Chinese fishing boats are still inside the lagoon of the rock formation on West Philippine Sea.
Hernandez said that this is the situation at the Scarborough Shoal as of 9 a.m. today: 10 Chinese fishing boats, three Chinese government vessels, 1 Philippine fishing boat, and two Philippine government boats.
After hearing of China’s fishing ban, President Benigno Aquino III had announced a similar Philippine fishing ban in the disputed waters “to replenish our fish stock.” The Philippine fishing ban covers the shoal and will last until July 15.
These two bans are hoped to effectively reduce tensions between the two countries, if not eventually resolve the Scarborough standoff.
After his presentation on the state of the Scarborough standoff before members of the Makati Business Club, DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario said he is currently engaging Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing in a “diplomatic dialogue.”
He said the discussion on a pullout of both parties’ government ships is still being discussed, but not in relation to the fishing ban.
Earlier, China refused to respond to direct questions of whether it will or will not withdraw its civilian government vessels from the area.
In response to e-mailed questions coursed to the Chinese embassy in Manila, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said: “China has expounded on our positions on the Huangyan Island incident for many times. Our position of committing to diplomatic consultation to settle the issue remains unchanged.”
Hong Lei’s response was received Tuesday night via email.
The rock formation 120 miles off Zambales is Huangyan Island to China, and Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc to the Philippines.
Hong Lei reiterated that the May 16 to August 1 fishing ban has been an administrative measure of China’s Ministry of Agriculture-Bureau of Fishery Administration “for many years” meant “to protect the maritime biological resources in the related waters, having nothing to do with the current Huangyan Island incident.”
Although President Aquino expressed gratitude for the ban, saying it would allow the replenishment of marine resources in the rich fishing grounds and adding that the Philippines might take similar action, the Department of Foreign Affairs has stressed that it does not recognize the Chinese initiative.
News5 reported that Vietnam has voiced its opposition to China's fishing ban, calling it unilateral and invalid. Vietnam is also a claimant to several areas in the South China Sea.