MANILA Jan 16 The Philippines will defy new
Chinese fishing rules in disputed areas of the South China Sea
and the navy will escort fishing boats to protect them if
necessary, the defence secretary said on Thursday.
China imposed fishing restrictions from the beginning of
year, requiring foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval
before entering the waters.
Claims by an increasingly powerful China over most of the
energy-rich South China Sea have set it directly against U.S.
allies Vietnam and the Philippines. Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia
also claim parts of the waters and China has a separate dispute
with Japan in the East China Sea.
"We will not follow their rules," Philippine Defence
Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters. "Why should we seek
permission from another country? They do not own our fishing
grounds. That's ours, okay."
Gazmin said the navy would escort the boats if needed.
"We still have the capability to secure them," he said.
"There is really a need to show force because China has been
very aggressive lately. They started with air defence
identification zone, then this fishing laws."
China established the air defence identification zone in the
East China Sea, requiring all aircraft to report flight plans to
Chinese authorities, maintain radio contact and reply promptly
to identification inquiries.
The zone triggered protests from the United States, Japan
and South Korea. The fishing rules add another irritant to
Liu Xigui, director of China's State Oceanic Administration
whose ships generally carry out patrols in the East and South
China Sea, said China would "strengthen" its sea presence this
year, including around Scarborough Shoal, one of the main areas
of contention with the Philippines.
"In 2014, we will ... resolutely uphold and protect the
state's maritime rights," the official Xinhua news agency quoted
him as saying.
The fishing rules do not outline penalties, but the
requirements are similar to a 2004 law that says boats entering
Chinese territory without permission can have their catch and
equipment seized and face fines of up to 500,000 yuan ($82,600).
China was imposing the fishing rules because it was
projecting itself as a superpower, Gazmin said. "But, it is
applying its being a superpower to smaller countries like us
which have no capability to fight militarily."
(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Additional reporting by Ben
Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie)