WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

ROQUE: China has legal rights to fish in West Philippine Sea

By ROGER M. BALANZA

The Philippine protest over Chinese fishermen fishing in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) does not hold water.

No less than presidential spokesman Harry Roque said this even as the Philippines continues to protest strongly the presence of the Chinese fishermen in the WPS, particularly in the Scarborough Shoal, that was awarded as part of Philippine territory in 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

China does not recognize the arbitral tribunal’s ruling and has continued to disregard diplomatic protests filed by the Philippine foreign affairs office over the presence of Chinese fishing and militia vessels in the WPS.

According Roque, even the tribunal allowed the Chinese to fish in the WPS. also contested as part of territory by China and other Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam..

Roque, in a televised press conference on Tuesday, said the arbitral ruling of The Hague-based court declared the shoal as a common fishing ground.

The ruling, in effect, allowed both Filipino and Chinese fishermen to fish in the area, said Roque.

He said this provision in the arbitration award must be respected, even if it is not favorable to a country.

“The tribunal notes that traditional fishing rights may exist even within the territorial waters of another state and considers that its jurisdiction to address this dispute is not dependent on the prior determination of sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal,” Roque said

This means that Filipinos, Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen can fish in the area ” because it is the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration,” Roque said.

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