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China can't subject entire South China Sea to its sovereignty – DFA|
By MICHAELA DEL CALLARJanuary 10, 2014 3:43pm
Tags: Department of Foreign Affairs , Raul Hernandez
The Philippines on Friday rejected China’s new fisheries regulation that exercises control over a vast area of the disputed South China Sea, saying no state can subject the high seas to its sovereignty.
At a press briefing, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez described the Chinese restriction “a gross violation of international law,” adding that it “escalates tensions, unnecessarily complicates the situation in the South China Sea and threatens the peace and stability of the region.”
“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,” Hernandez said.
Further, the DFA spokesperson said China's regulation violates the spirit of a non-binding code of conduct that China signed in 2001 with Southeast Asian nations that calls on all claimants to exercise restraint and stop new occupation in the South China Sea.
But Hernandez said a diplomatic protest has not been filed yet pending clarification from Beijing on its new fisheries law issued by the Hainan Provincial People’s Congress that took effect on January 1 this year.
The South China Sea, believed to be oil and gas rich, is being claimed wholloy or in part by China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. The Philippines refers to parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone as West Philippine Sea.
At the same press briefing, Hernandez said the Philippines "is not the only country adversely affected by these regulation.”
“These regulations seriously violate the freedom of navigation and the right to fish of all states in the high seas as provided for under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.
UNCLOS is a 1982 accord by 163 countries that governs the use of offshore areas and sets territorial limits of coastal states. The Philippines and China are both signatories to the treaty.
“Under customary international law, no state can subject the high seas to its sovereignty,” Hernandez said, noting the new law is another attempt by China to reinforce its expansive claim under its so-called nine-dash line.
The new policy entered into force a month after China imposed an air defense zone over a group of islands it is disputing with Japan off the East China Sea.
Japan, the United States, Australia and the Philippines were quick to reject China’s air zone.
Overlapping claims to the South China Sea, a strategic waterway believed to be sitting atop huge gas and oil deposits, have sparked occasional violence and now regarded as a potential regional flashpoint for armed conflict.
Manila challenged China’s sweeping territorial claims before an international court of arbitration, but Beijing, insisting on historical entitlement over the waters, dismissed the Philippines’ case as groundless and lacking in legal merit.