Palawan News file photo

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) warned on Friday that foreign vessels should refrain from conducting illegal fishing activities in Philippine waters, as China concludes its unilaterally imposed ‘fishing moratorium’ in the South China Sea.

The ban imposed annually by China runs from May 1 to August 16, encroaching on areas situated within Philippine territory and exclusive economic zone (EEZ), including the Bajo de Masinloc.

“We urge China to take active measures at port to prevent its fishing fleets from encroaching into our territorial sea and EEZ,” the DFA said in a statement.

“The Philippines is ready to take law enforcement measures on illegal fishing activities in its waters,” it stressed.

The DFA reiterated that Manila does not recognize China’s fishing ban, which has been the subject of its diplomatic protests in the past.

The agency said it will continue to register Manila’s formal opposition to it.

“It is an illegal exercise of state authority in so far as they cover the Philippines’ maritime zones,” it said.

DFA Assistant Secretary for Maritime and Ocean Affairs Maria Angela Ponce said that a diplomatic protest was lodged when China announced its 2023 ban in the first half of the year.

Paragraph 716 of the 2016 Arbitral Award states that China, by declaring its fishing ban in the South China Sea “without exception for areas of the South China Sea falling within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and without limiting the moratorium to Chinese flagged vessels, breached Article 56 of the 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) with respect to the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the living resources of its exclusive economic zone.”

State-run Xinhua earlier published photos showing swarms of fishing vessels sailing off from different coastal towns in southern China as the “fishing season of the South China Sea” started on Wednesday after Beijing’s “moratorium.” (PNA)

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