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Fish production not seen affected by China threat to detain ‘trespassers’

THE Chinese threat to detain fishing boat crews “intruding” on the territory it claims in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is not expected to have a significant impact on fish production, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

“In terms of production, yes, the contribution of the West Philippine Sea is significant… But we don’t see the unilateral declaration of China actually having an impact,” BFAR spokesman Nazario C. Briguera said in a briefing on Tuesday.

The Chinese government has authorized its coast guard to detain for 60 days without trial any boat crew members found in the disputed waters.

“First and foremost, the Philippines does not recognize this unilateral declaration of China,” he said.

“The Philippines will continue to fish in the West Philippine Sea because it is part of our waters, as our exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” he added.

The Philippines continued to protest the illegal presence and actions of Chinese vessels within the EEZ.

Mr. Briguera said BFAR has yet to receive reports of China detaining any boat crews from the Philippines.

“We have not heard of any fishermen being arrested and if there is, it is a new provocation on the part of China and it can be considered a new violation of international law, particularly of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

China’s coast guard has repeatedly used water cannons to turn Philippine vessels from entering contested areas within the EEZ, including Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal.

Fish caught in the WPS amounted to 201,894.49 metric tons last year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.  This was up 14.85% from 2022. — Adrian H. Halili