Beijing illegally orders arrest of foreign fishermen in SCS

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Beijing continues to defy world law. It authorized the China Coast Guard to detain foreigners in the international South China Sea that it falsely claims to own.

Detention for interrogation can last 60 days – without trial. CCG ships are equipped with cannons and machineguns.

The rule imperils Filipino, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam fishers in their own exclusive economic zones that Beijing bounds. It opens their coast guards and fishery enforcers to CCG arrest.

“Ignore it,” Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela advised Filipino fishers in the West Philippine Sea. About 350,000 families derive livelihood from WPS.

“The new China regulation violates the United Nations Charter and UNCLOS,” retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said. “It should not impose illegal policies in high seas it falsely claims.”

The Chinese embassy in Manila released May 15 a 92-page Mandarin script translated as “Provisions on Administrative Law Enforcement Procedures of Coast Guard Agencies.”

Article 257 states that foreigners suspected of breaching China’s border laws may be detained. Such breaches include entering or exiting Chinese territory, or assisting others in entry or exit.

Foreigners “suspected of endangering national security and interests, disrupting public order or engaging in other illegal criminal activities” may be detained up to 30 days, it adds.

“For complicated cases, [detention] may be extended to 60 days with approval of higher maritime police agency.”

Chapter 2 says the CCG shall handle administrative cases occurring in “waters under the jurisdiction of our country.” Article 266 allows CCG to seize foreign ships.

The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration has outlawed Beijing’s “nine-dash line” by which it claims the whole SCS. Ignoring the 2016 verdict, Beijing recently stretched its nine dashes to ten, to add Taiwan.

Beijing disregards the 200-mile EEZs of five ASEAN countries, claiming the entire SCS as an internal lake. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea grants each littoral state an EEZ. China and the ASEAN states are signatories.

Beijing timed its release of the new CCG rules with the Atin Ito regatta. The civilian sea parade of four commercial fishing vessels and a hundred bancas from Zambales delivered fuel and food to Filipino fishers in Panatag Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc, 123 miles away.

Beijing called Atin Ito an infringement and provocation. It dispatched five naval warships, six CCG gunboats and 26 armed maritime militia steel trawlers to shadow the Filipino wooden craft.

The new rules also coincided with Beijing’s attempt to concrete Escoda (Sabina) Shoal, 72 miles off Palawan. A PCG patrol thwarted the reclamation by three Chinese ships, escorted by three China frigates, three CCG cutters and 30 militia trawlers.

Forty-eight Chinese vessels earlier pulverized 12,000 hectares of corals in Escoda and nearby Rozul (Iroquois) Reef. Both are southside of Recto (Reed) Bank. By occupying Escoda, China can steal Recto’s 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Carpio said: “Under UNCLOS no state can subject the high seas to its sovereignty. The new regulation authorizes CCG to arrest, detain and expel foreign individuals or vessels in the high seas of SCS. It subjects the high seas of SCS to China’s sovereignty in violation of UNCLOS.

“Under UNCLOS only the coastal state has sovereign right and jurisdiction over its EEZ. China has no jurisdiction over Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei or Malaysia EEZs. Thus, China’s new regulation cannot apply in the EEZs of other coastal states.

“The UN Charter outlaws the use or threat of force to settle disputes between states. China’s threat in its new coast guard regulation to use force in settling its maritime disputes with ASEAN coastal states violates the UN Charter.

“Manila should invite the US, UK, France, Japan, Australia and other coastal states to jointly or individually sail the high seas and EEZs in SCS. Strongly register their objection to this new Chinese regulation which violates UNCLOS and the UN Charter.”

Last May 1st two giant CCG gunboats water-cannoned and damaged two PCG craft half their size. Beijing claimed the PCG trespassed the 12-mile territorial waters of Panatag, which it wrongly calls its island.

In February China coast guards boarded a Taiwan cruise ship off the latter’s Kinmen islets.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., dwIZ (882-AM).

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