Ten ASEAN member states and China have discussed ways to promote cooperation in humane treatment of fishermen as part of the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).
Philippine fishermen aboard their motorized boats sail along Ulugan Bay, in Puerto Princesa, Palawan island in 2012. Photo: AFP
The workshop, which was held both online and offline in Hanoi, is the first activity to implement the DOC so far this year, contributing to maintaining the momentum achieved, said Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Quoc Dung on Tuesday.
Under the DOC, parties concerned shall intensify efforts to seek ways, in the spirit of cooperation and understanding, to build trust and confidence, ensure just and humane treatment of all persons who are either in danger or distress at sea.
Mr. Dung said there remain certain differences in understanding of the issue, which result in inconsistent application of law enforcement practice. It should be acknowledged that protection and provision of just, humane treatment to fishermen is cross-sectoral in nature, which requires a holistic approach to address.
In this context, it is important to promote dialogue and cooperation between ASEAN and China in ensuring just and humane treatment of fishermen, especially those who are in danger or distress situation.
“This is not just a confidence building measure to implement the DOC but a priority area of practical cooperation” that should be promoted for “the benefit of fishing communities and the people as a whole in the region”, the Vietnamese diplomat noted.
Commitment resulted from DOC
Signed in 2002, the DOC is a milestone document embodying the collective commitment of ASEAN member states and China to promoting peace, stability and mutual trust and to ensuring the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea.
Fishermen constitute a major group among the sea-going persons in the South China Sea. For ASEAN and China, fishermen hold a special position. As many as nearly 200 million people depend on fishery resources of the South China Sea for their livelihood.
Meanwhile, fishermen are vulnerable to danger or distress at sea, including increasingly complex weather patterns and frequency of natural disaster, accidents and collisions, not to mention some accidents and incidents that have occurred.
At the workshop, representatives of ASEAN and China revealed that fishing boats in their countries are mostly of small size and outdated while fishermen face difficulties and emerging danger in the South China Sea, requiring long-term support.
Therefore, ensuring the safety of fishermen and humane treatment toward fishermen at sea has been stipulated in a number of international agreements and treaties and those reached by ASEAN and China.
But a broader approach to protect fishermen and ensure better treatment toward them is the common expectation among the representatives at the workshop.
At the event, significant joint efforts between Malaysia and Indonesia to treat fishermen of the two sides have been shared, becoming a good reference for the cooperation between ASEAN and China in the same issue.