News / Asia

China, Philippines Fishing Ban Defuses Tensions

Philippine fishing vessel near the Scarborough Shoal, the focus of a sovereignty dispute between China and The Philippines
Philippine fishing vessel near the Scarborough Shoal, the focus of a sovereignty dispute between China and The Philippines
Terry Wing
A territorial squabble between China and the Philippines over a small group of islands in the South China Sea has not evolved into a going green agreement.  But a decision by both countries to implement a ban on fishing in the region has helped to temporarily defuse tensions between them. 

From May 16 – August 1, China said it will stop fishing in an area that encompasses the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island to the Chinese), a small group of islands it claims as part of its territory.

The Philippines responded by announcing plans for its own fishing ban in the area. While Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said called it an opportunity to replenish the rich fishing grounds, his statement was preface by a comment that was more direct to the issue.

“We do not recognize China’s fishing ban inasmuch as portions of the ban encompass our Exclusive Economic Zone,” Rosario said, referring to the 200-nautical-mile zone granted to the Philippines under the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea.

More Than A Few Rocks

While the Scarborough Shoal is more than 750 nautical miles from China and 200 nautical miles from The Philippines, it is at the heart of a long-running dispute between the two.  The latest showdown began on April 8 when China blocked an attempt by Philippine officials to arrest Chinese fisherman for fishing illegally in the area.

The territorial dispute over the Scarborough Shoal is one of two involving China and the Philippines in the South China Sea.  The Spratly Islands, a group of about 45 islands, are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, and Malaysia. The value of these few rocks in the sea, however, goes well beyond fishing rights. 

Geologists believe that certain areas of the South China Sea contain enormous reserves of oil and natural gas. “I’ve seen estimates that the South China Sea has oil reserves that are approximately 80% of those held by Saudi Arabia,” said Kim Bergmann, editor of two Australian publications, Asia-Pacific Defense Reporter and Defense Review Asia.

The presence of large oil and natural gas deposits make the region of great interest to   the United States and India because their companies are involved in exploring for oil and natural gas – as are the Chinese. 

It is also an extremely significant body of water in a geopolitical sense as well. It is the second most used sea lane in the world.  “It’s a flashpoint that could have consequences that go well beyond the region,” said Bergmann.

U.S. Interests

Earlier this month, U.S. security officials met in Washington with their counterparts from the Philippines to discuss its lingering dispute with China over the South China Sea.  Philippines Foreign Secretary Rosario said that while the United States made it clear it does not get involved in territorial disputes, he did say Washington affirmed that it will honor its obligations under the mutual defense treaty.

“Washington’s allies in the Pacific want a stable military balance in the region and I think they want Washington to encourage Beijing to pursue its goals according to accepted international norms, “ Gerard Finin, a senior fellow at the Hawaii-based East-West Center told VOA.

Finin said he expects the maritime dispute to be revolved diplomatically.  “The key is keeping lines of communications open to avoid miscalculations,” he said.

Washington has outwardly has declined to take sides in the dispute, it does insist on its national interests to maintain freedom of navigation and the flow of commerce across sea lanes in the region.  The South China Sea is the second busiest sea lane in the world.

U.S. President Barack Obama, in a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on April 30th, referred to the maritime dispute, urging China to “abide by international rules and norms.“ He specifically mentioned maritime disputes, encouraging China to ensure “small countries and large countries are respected in international forums.

"All of our actions are not designed to in any way contain China, but to ensure they are part of a broad international community in which rules and norms are respected and in which all countries can prosper and succeed," Obama said.

China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly warned the United States to stay out of the dispute.  More recently, the chief publication for China’s military, The Liberation Army Daily, charged “U.S. statements have provided the Philippines with room for strategic maneuver and to a certain extent has increased the Philippines’ chips to play against us, emboldening them to take a risky course.”

The East-West Center’s Gerard Finin agrees U.S. involvement in the dispute carries certain risks.  “The Chinese tend to see U.S. involvement in the region as something of a challenge, if not a threat to long-term Chinese sovereignty.”

The Law of the Sea

In making its claim of sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratleys,
China may be seen as making some extreme interpretations of the Law of the Sea Convention.  It can, after all, claim to be a signatory to the convention when talking about international law and the sea.  The United States cannot. 

“Those positions have been regularly contested by the United States and its allies, but because the United States is not a party to the convention, it is often being faced by arguments by China that it is not in the position to seek to interpret or apply the treaty because it is not a party to the treaty,” said International law professor Don Rothwell of Australian National University.

“The treaty has 162 state parties, which ranks it very highly amongst treaties around the world,” said Rothwell.  “I think the justification for the United States staying outside the treaty now has very little merit.”

Rothwell notes the treaty does have a compulsory dispute resolution mechanism.  But he also notes there are a number of opt-out provisions when it comes to fundamental issues such as state sovereignty.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous from: PH
May 19, 2012 7:48 AM
Oh, I thought after settling 'invasive disputes' with all other 'little' nations on South China Sea via force, China was going to change its name to the one used by their emperors from dynasties long ago to promote national unity. I believe they historically called themselves 'Pacific'


by: GordanFreeman1960 from: USA
May 17, 2012 6:50 PM
China will agree to this deal and then will not respect the agreement. China cannot be trusted.


by: eyedrd from: usA
May 17, 2012 1:28 AM
Vietnamese fishermen will defy again Chinese imperialistic fishing ban at their ohttp://www.eyedrd.org/2012/05/vietnamese-fishermen-will-defy-again-chinese-imperialistic-fishing-ban-at-their-own-perils.htmlwn perils.


by: Tsing Tsong Tsai from: Canada
May 16, 2012 6:11 PM
Chinese government is deflecting the focus right now from their party and about the human rights situation of a blind Chinese. They're trying to brain wash and stir up the emotions of the gullible Chinese people through their state run media. Scarborough shoal belongs to the Philippines as per UNLCS law. China is a signatory to this and should abide by it. Stop being a bully and new Nazi in Asia. If not US, the ASEAN countries, Japan, South Korea, Australia and even India will partition your country and give the bulk of it to TIbet.


by: Zhuangmin from: Shijiazhuang,Hebei,China
May 16, 2012 1:33 PM
Zhuangmin wants to challenge all American.Zhuangmin wants to be the democracy teacher of modern American.The reason is that the Chinese democracy activists ,who the United States of America supports,are the barriers that affects Chinese to have pragmatic and rational democracy.Are there any Americans dare to challenge the eight programme of Zhuangmin thought?


by: brian from: colorado
May 16, 2012 12:44 AM
photo cap says "near" the disputed islands, but this photo was not taken within 100 miles of that location.

check out the terrain features in the back "ground"
Highest elevation in Scarborough Shoals is about 3 meters.


by: Jonathan Huang from: Canada
May 15, 2012 10:28 PM
Now VOA is starting to tell the truth. first, US has no right to interfere UNCLOS issue. Second, sovereignty dispute cant be solved with UNCLOS. South China sea belongs to all Chinese including Taiwan and China.


by: Wharton from: Beijing, China
May 15, 2012 9:48 PM
As the article indicated, this action will "temporarily defuse tensions" between China and the Philippines. At present, the emphasis should be on "temporarily". The situation is far from resolved.


by: Deng Peng from: USA
May 15, 2012 9:45 PM
There is a new name for China, China the Bully!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid