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Friday, March 1, 2024

Fishing pact with China eyed

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NSA pushes regional interim move pending Code of Conduct in SCS

National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos suggested Friday a regional regulatory fishing agreement with China amid the latter’s alleged continued activities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Interviewed on Dobol B TV, Carlos pointed out that there should be a fishing agreement for the meantime since the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea had yet to be finished.

“I hope I will finish my draft since the Code of Conduct, which is already long overdue, is not yet finished. For the meantime, we should have a fishing agreement,” Carlos said.

With the agreement, Carlos said all concerned countries, not only China, would decide when it would come to the declaration of a fishing holiday.

She made the statement following the reported new constructions and reclamations being made China in some unoccupied features in the WPS. The Chinese embassy in Manila has dismissed the report as “fake news.”

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Meanwhile, Carlos said the Philippine government preferred not to make hasty conclusions on the reported latest reclamation activities in the hotly contested South China Sea.

This was after Carlos was informed by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian on Thursday that it was Vietnam that was reclaiming land in the SCS.

There was no immediately available comment from the Vietnamese Embassy in Manila.

Carlos said she told Huang that China and the Philippines need to change direction in their relationship, especially since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was set to visit China in January 2023.

Earlier, Bloomberg reported that China was building new constructions and reclamations in at least four unoccupied features in the Spratly Islands, namely Eldad Reef, Whitsun Reef, Lankiam Cay, and Sandy Cay.

Eldad and Whitsun Reefs are 48 and 60 nautical miles, respectively, from Pag-asa Island and are within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

The Chinese embassy in Manila and the China-based South China Sea Probing Initiative have denied Bloomberg’s report, calling it “fake news.”

Carlos noted that during her meeting with Huang, she emphasized the importance of upholding the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China, as one of the signatories to UNCLOS, must honor the international treaty that lays out a comprehensive legal framework governing all activities and uses of the world’s seas and oceans, Carlos said.

Carlos said she also relayed to Huang the Philippines’ concern over China’s reported activities in SCS, despite that Manila already sent over 100 notes verbales to Beijing.

Carlos expressed hope President Marcos Jr. would raise the SCS issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to China next month.

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