Monday, 17 Jun 2019
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) released a model of fisheries management and environmental cooperation in the disputed South China Sea (East Sea) in September 2017.
Gregory Poling, Director of the AMTI, visited Vietnam in February to introduce the model.
The action plan includes a blueprint to manage the sea fisheries and ensure environmental protection in East Sea. It is the first output of the expert working group of CSIS on the East Sea, which seeks to come up with a feasible model for claimants to manage maritime disputes, said Poling.
Gregory B. Poling is director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and a fellow with the Southeast Asia Program at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The working group includes representatives from the US, Philippines, China and Vietnam, among others, who are knowledgeable in law, policy and environment, shared Poling.
The blueprint’s purpose is to provide examples of codes of conduct relating to fisheries management and environmental protection in the East Sea based on scientific studies. Poling believes that while the Code of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (COC) between ASEAN and China remains a work-in-progress, “we need a timely intervention plan, and the focus of the blueprint is to set aside the territorial and sovereignty disputes to focus on the environment and fisheries protection”, Poling stressed.
As to whether claimant-countries are willing to set aside the sovereignty disputes in the East Sea to join the blueprint, Poling believes this is a possibility. “The entire point of this exercise was to find a framework that complies with international laws as well as the domestic laws of all the countries concerned, Vietnam included, and be politically feasible”, he said.
As noted by the US expert, there is nothing in the blueprint that causes participating countries to sacrifice or compromise sovereignty or to waive their maritime claims, but it requires cooperation between countries in fisheries and environmental protection. In the case of outstanding maritime disputes, states involved still have the responsibility to find practical solutions to protect the maritime resource, he added. “It can take another 20 years to talk about sovereignty disputes, while the fish can die in just 10 years”, stressed Poling.
On China’s participation in the blueprint, Poling was not confident that the country would be involved in any diplomatic framework, but confirmed Beijing has not rejected the plan so far. If Southeast Asian countries promote the implementation of the blueprint or another framework based on similar principles of fisheries management and environmental protection in the East Sea, it will cause huge pressure on China. “China cannot just say no without offerring alternative solutions”, enthused Poling.