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Manila urged not to escalate tension

(China Daily)

08:19, May 15, 2012

More than 100 overseas Chinese protest over the Philippines' claim of China's Huangyan Island in the South China Sea in front of the Consulate-General of the Philippines in New York on Sunday. (Li Yang / China News Service)

China on Monday again urged the Philippines to avoid actions that may increase tensions in the dispute over Huangyan Island, which is irrelevant to the upcoming routine fishing ban in northern parts of the South China Sea.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks at a regular news conference, as some Chinese netizens speculated whether the ban was a preparation for war with the Southeastern Asian nation.

"The ban is an annual attempt that has been taken by the national administration for decades, and the aim is to protect fishery resources in the South China Sea. It is irrelevant to the dispute over Huangyan Island," he told reporters.

According to a statement from the South China Sea Fishery Bureau of the Ministry of Agriculture, fishing will be banned beginning on Wednesday in northern parts of the South China Sea, including the waters around Huangyan Island, for the next two and a half months.

All fishing operations, except gill-netting and angling, will be banned, the statement said.

Violators of the ban will see their catches and boats confiscated and fishing licenses revoked and face fines up to 50,000 yuan ($7,900), apart from the seizure of their catches and illegitimate earnings, it said.

"The ban has no relation to the current tensions in the dispute over Huangyan Island. It is a regular measure that China takes to protect fishery resources in this area every year," said Yang Shaosong, an official with the South China Sea Fishery Bureau.

The ban is a measure that has been issued annually since 1999 to preserve biodiversity, as local fishing resources have declined greatly due to over-fishing in the past few decades, fishery authorities and experts said.

There are currently about 90,000 Chinese fishing boats in the South China Sea, said Qiu Yongsong, a researcher with the South China Sea Fisheries Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences.

"The number of Philippine fishing boats around Huangyan Island is always very small," he said.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Monday that President Benigno Aquino has decided Manila should impose its own ban, and details were expected in the coming days, AP reported.

Although China and the Philippines have resumed negotiations over Huangyan Island, Rosario said on Saturday that the Philippines will never agree to the demands and will instead seek only a temporary agreement to the stalemate until a long-lasting solution can be obtained.

Philippine officials have asked for the dispute to be settled at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas.

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