Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte favors declaring the Chinese-occupied Scarborough Shoal a marine sanctuary where fishing is not allowed. He voiced his sentiments in a media interview after visiting his father’s grave early Thursday morning, November 24, 2016 in Davao City.
According to Rappler, Duterte issued the following statement in advance of his executive order giving special status to the contested shoal in the West Philippine Sea. Here is the translated version.
”China should also give the same order not to fish on the spawning ground because that’s also theirs, they should guard it. They say it’s theirs. As for me, it’s ours. So I say, don’t destroy it because that’s Filipinos’ source of food.”
In Duterte’s executive order, fishermen will be allowed to fish in waters surrounding the shoal.
On August 4, 2015, Inquisitr online news reported on a solution proposed by Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court, to resolve the South China Sea dispute. He suggested as an olive-branch alternative for China and other claimants of features and islands in the contested area, to regard the South China Sea a sanctuary for fish and part of the global commons.
Following bilateral talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on October 20, 2016, Justice Carpio said that the Chinese were unlikely to abandon their South China Sea claims in compliance with a decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) to that effect. He made his point in a recent interview with the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.
“I don’t see them leaving just because they’ve lost. And we have to think of a creative way to give China a face-saving exit here, and I think the way to that is to declare Spratlys as a marine protected area. It’s a win-win situation. If you look at it, China needs to fish in South China Sea because they have the highest per capita consumption of fish in the world, and they have to feed 1.4 billion people.”
Meanwhile, a non-aligned third party warns that the burden on fish stocks by China’s island-building projects, is not a matter of economics but of starvation. Professor John McManus of the National Center for Coral Reef Research at the University of Miami, is calling on China and other claimants to get past their disputes and declare the South China Sea an international protected zone like Antarctica. He issued the following statement to a panel organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on July 12, 2016.
“If we don’t do this, we are headed toward a major, major fisheries collapse in a part of the world where [that] will lead to mass starvation.”
John McManus of the University of Miami proposes a freeze on territorial claims in the South China Sea, along with joint resource management shared by the countries concerned. He believes it in Beijing’s interest to diminish tensions, while seeking to consolidate its position as a leader on the regional and global stage. Also, squandered marine resources could result in billions of dollars of lost trade for China.
On a smaller scale, Duterte wants to get past the conflicting claims on the Scarborough Shoal by declaring it a no-fish zone. The sacrifice he is willing to make lies in the fact that the shoal is a traditional Filipino fishing venue off the coast of Zambales province, well within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (E.E.Z.). He spelled out his stance in unmistakable terms.
“I do not care what China says about their ownership of that. Me, as President, I claim that in the arbitral [award], so no fishing.”
During their November 20 bilateral meeting in Lima, Peru, Duterte explained his planned no-fish zone order to Chinese President Xi Jinping. This development modified Duterte’s earlier position during a state visit to China in October, which had garnered a “friendly” understanding over the Filipino right to fish in the shoal.
Duterte deems it in the interest of the Philippines and China to ensure the shoal is a no-fish zone, on top of the fact that any building of structures in the shoal would disrupt the spawning of fish. He calls it a matter of common sense.
“Even if no country would claim it to be their territory, common sense should tell you not to destroy the source of the life in the sea.”