Thereare always two sides to the question. This is especially true withthe recent Chinese reiteration of rules about fishing in the SouthChina Sea. The rules are not new. It has been there for decades butthose who were more interested in escalating conflict between the twocountries worked overtime to interpret it as an act of aggression andthis is the side that has been getting the publicity.Filipinos have to be more informed rather than take everypropaganda trick that aims to aggravate the conflict. The problem isaccess to mainstream media in the Philippines that does not seepublic interest as a duty. It demands information and searchingquestions to shape responsible opinion.
For this, readers (usually without time and patience, all tryingto make a living) have to search in less accessible sites either inthe Internet or social media to see another perspective.
Philippines Ambassador Alberto Encomienda has made the managementof the sea his life-long passion and has much to teach our diplomats.He has organized a website called “Balikbalangay” that could be acenter of information for differing opinions. The website includesfishing as part of the management of the sea. It is criticial to thePhilippines because of countless Filipino fishermen who make theirliving from fishing.
To Encomienda, the reiteration of fishing laws by China can beturned around as an opportunity for the two countries to come up witha cooperative agreement.
Chinese official sources said “the fisheries conservationregulations had been issued and published by China since the 1980s.”There was no reaction from the Philippines then and yet these are thevery same rules that are being attacked today.
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“The regulations are not about exercise of sovereignty butconservation,” says Encomienda.
He adds that it may have been unilateral at first but when UNCLOScame into force in 1994 it was included to promote cooperation.Because of that inclusion in UNCLOS “the applicable provision inthe State Constitution of China would render a bilateral agreement onFisheries to be of superior standing to domestic laws.“
Therefore, if there were a fisheries agreement with thePhilippines, the provisions of this agreement would govern overdomestic laws, rules and regulations. Now that UNCLOS is in force,China would be willing to update arrangements according to UNCLOSprescriptions. The two countries should sit down and agree on how tomeet their concerns half-way in regard to the current controversies.That is how to protect our fishermen, not through balderdash aboutgoing to war. What utter nonsense.
Finding ways for cooperation should be encouraged and nurtured.China has “reiterated its call on the Philippines to meet Beijinghalfway to jointly maintain peace and stability in the South ChinaSea.”
“China is committed to resolving disputes with countriesdirectly concerned through negotiation and consultation, implementingthe Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea(DOC) together with all parties concerned, and upholding theprinciple of “shelving disputes and seeking joint development,”spokesperson Hong Lei said in a statement.
Asean Foreign Ministers meeting in Myanmar welcomed the statementfrom China. The Philippines is a member of Asean. One would think itshould welcome the Chinese initiative to resolve disputes throughpeaceful means as embodied in Asean’s Six-PointPrinciples on the South China Sea.
“The key is that all parties should commit themselves to thefull and effective implementation of the DOC and do more to promotemutual trust and cooperation. China hopes that relevant countriescould meet China halfway to jointly maintain peace and stability ofthe South China Sea,” Hong said.
The use of diplomacy for resolving problems in the South China Seaconflict between China and the Philippines has never been as close tobeing possible with this development. Strangely, Foreign AffairsSecretary Albert del Rosario seems to be only interested in promotingconflict. Apart from dismissing the Chinese fishing regulation in theSouth China Sea he also pushed for the East China Sea Air DefenseIdentification Zone (ADIZ).
He is throwing away an opportunity for peaceful settlementthat is in the interest of the country and particularly thelivelihood of fishermen. Maybe he should meet with the fishermen,talk to them and listen to what they have to say.