National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr said Wednesday Filipino fishermen should continue working in the West Philippine Sea, since China's fishing ban does not apply to them.
Beijing has no right to outlaw fishing, traditionally for three months, in waters that are within the Philippines' EEZ or exclusive economic zone, Esperon told Teleradyo.
"Hindi naman covered ang ating fishing boats d'yan. Sa kanila lang 'yun. Bat sila magpoproklama ng fishing ban sa ating West Philippine Sea, sa ating EEZ?" Esperon said.
China has refused to pull out its vessels from the Philippines EEZ despite diplomatic protests from Manila and Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. cursing at Beijing on Twitter that the ships should just "get the f*ck out."
Early this year, China passed a new law that authorizes its coast guard to use force in asserting its excessive claims in the region. This spelled more danger for Filipino fishermen who, in recent years, have been finding it harder to fish in the West Philippine Sea due to China's moves.
“The NTF-WPS reiterates that our fisherfolk are encouraged to go out and fish in our waters in the WPS," the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in a statement Tuesday night.
“The Philippines is not deterred from defending our national interest, patrimony, and our dignity as a people with all that we have,” it added.
While Locsin and Defense Secretary Delfinb Lorenzana had repeatedly called on China to leave, President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly said that the Philippines was indebted to Beijing because of vaccine supplies and other aid. However, the 76-year-old leader said such debt of gratitude should not compromise sovereignty.