A Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official is confident the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos) will invalidate China’s claim on virtually the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said on Saturday a ruling by the tribunal on China’s so-called nine-dash claim is due at the end of this year or early 2015.
Hernandez was sharing his thoughts on the new ordinance passed by Chinese province Hainan that the DFA says compels foreign vessels to seek a permit from Chinese regional authorities to fish in large areas of the West Philippine Sea.
The law covers more than half of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer sea being claimed by China, the Philippines and several other countries.
The Philippines has questioned the nine-dash line before the Itlos “and we are expecting them to come out with a decision invalidating this nine-dash line by end of 2014 or early 2015 because this has no basis in international law and the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos),” Hernandez told Radyo ng Bayan.
“It is a long process, but we are confident that our case is strong because our claims our based in Unclos,” he said.
Unclos provides that countries can set up 200 nautical-mile exclusive economic zones.
The Air Defense Identification Zone declared last year by Beijing and the law restricting fishing are similar because both require other parties to seek permission from China when entering areas of which China has no jurisdiction, based on the Unclos, Hernandez said.
“China’s moves are increasing tensions and muddling the situation in the West Philippine Sea. We should be able to maintain peace and security in our region,” he said.
The Philippine embassy in Beijing is seeking a meeting with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clarify the scope of the Hainan ordinance.
Hernandez stressed that the ordinance should not stop Filipino fishermen from fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
“Our fishermen can go fishing within our exclusive economic zone. We have our sovereign right there,” Hernandez said.
The Philippines denounced Friday a new Chinese law that Manila says compels foreign vessels to seek a permit from Chinese regional authorities for activities in large areas of the West Philippine Sea.
“We have requested China to immediately clarify the new fisheries law issued by the Hainan Provincial People’s Congress,” the Filipino foreign department said in a statement.
“We are gravely concerned by this new regulation that would require foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval from Chinese regional authorities before fishing or surveying in a large portion of the South China Sea.”
Press reports said the law was passed last year and took effect on January 1.
China claims almost all the West Philippine Sea but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
Tensions between the Philippines and China have risen in recent years as Beijing becomes more aggressive in asserting its claims.
Earlier this year Manila took Beijing to a UN tribunal over the contested Scarborough Shoal, which has been controlled by Chinese government vessels since last year.
“This new law reinforces China’s expansive claim under the 9-dash line,” the Philippine foreign department alleged Friday, referring to China’s delineation of the extent of its maritime territorial claim.
“It is a gross violation of international law,” the statement added.
“This development escalates tensions, unnecessarily complicates the situation in the South China Sea, and threatens the peace and stability of the region.”
The statement said the Philippines was not the only country to be affected by the new Hainan regulations.
“These regulations seriously violate the freedom of navigation and the right to fish of all states in the high seas, as provided for under Unclos (the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea),” it said.
“Under customary international law, no state can subject the high seas to its sovereignty.”