China is set to begin enforcing a fishing ban today in northern parts of the South China Sea, including the waters around Huangyan Island, as the Philippines announced plans for its own fishing ban in the area amid the standoff between the two countries over the island.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei yesterday reiterated China's resolve in safeguarding its sovereignty over Huangyan, but he said China remains committed to resolving the issue via diplomatic means.
All fishing vessels, including foreign ships, should be moored and shelve their nets during the ban and violators may have their catches and boats confiscated and their fishing licenses revoked, a spokesman with China's South China Fishery Administration Bureau said.
The spokesman stressed that fishing activities by vessels of other countries in the banned waters will be seen as "blatant encroachment on China's fishery resources," according to the Xinhua News Agency.
Imposed annually since 1999, the annual ban is aimed at protecting fishery resources in the South China Sea, but this year it came against the backdrop of the ongoing spat over Huangyan Island between China and the Philippines.
China on Monday said the fishing ban is not related to the island row.
However, the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters in Manila on Monday that the Philippines will not recognize the fishing ban imposed by China in the South China Sea.
Rosario said the Philippine President Benigno Aquino has decided to issue the country's own fishing ban for a period of time in view of the accelerated depletion of marine resources, the Philippine ABS-CBN TV reported.
Yang Danzhi, an expert in Asia-Pacific strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that China showed its flexible and varied strategies in dealing with the island standoff with the Philippines.
"I think this is a good example if similar spats occur between China and other countries in the future," he noted.
Aquino on Monday ordered agriculture officials in his country to find other export markets for the Philippines' Cavendish bananas after China reportedly imposed more stringent quarantine requirements on the fruit, the Manila Standard reported.
Manila earlier said the new regulations in China were unrelated to the island dispute, but stocks in the Philippines on Monday slumped to their sharpest loss in two months.
China Southern Airlines, one of the three major Chinese airlines, yesterday announced it is cutting half of its flights to the Philippines as tourist numbers shrink amid tensions in the South China Sea, Xinhua reported.
"If the standoff continues, the Philippines will turn out to be the biggest loser," Yang said.