Despite South China Sea standoff, Filipino officials attend fishery talks in Chinese border city

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard interacting with the China Coast Guard in the South China Sea
Members of the Philippine Coast Guard interacting with the China Coast Guard in the South China Sea | Photo courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard
4 Min

China has invited the Philippines to participate in a forum on sustainable fisheries in the South China Sea, even as Chinese and Filipino vessels are engaging in an escalating marine confrontation there.

A flotilla of over 100 Filipino fishing boats was blocked by Chinese navy vessels, barring them from entering the Scarborough Shoal, one of several territories in the South China Sea near Southeast Asia claimed by both countries.

Though tensions over the rival claims have simmered for more than a decade, confrontations between the Chinese Coast Guard and the Philippines Coast Guard vessels in waters near the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone have become more frequent in recent weeks, according to the Associated Press.

Nonetheless, senior fishery officials from the Philippines, as well as from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand, were in attendance for a forum hosted 9 May by the South China Sea Fisheries Research Institute, part of the Chinese Academy of Fisheries, according to a statement from the Guangxi provincial office of China’s Agriculture Ministry. 

After discussions on sustainable management of fisheries in the South China Sea, attendees at the forum were invited to attend an annual release of fish fry by Chinese and Vietnamese officials. The release represented the start of a joint effort to revive fish stocks in the Gulf of Tonkin – referred to by China as the Beibu Gulf – shared by both countries.

The forum took place in Fangchenggang, a port city near the Vietnamese border, in the Guangxi region, which has become a vital bridge for trade between China and Vietnam, where many Chinese companies have relocated manufacturing to avail themselves of cheaper labor and easier access to the U.S. and E.U. markets. Guangxi is home to major seafood industry players, including processor Xianmeilai Food Co. and Haishitong Fishery, also known as Guangxi Hiseaton Foods Co. 

Southeast Asia has become increasingly important as a trading partner for Chinese seafood companies, Wang Xueguang, vice president of the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA), recently told SeafoodSource.

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