Philippines bans fishing near disputed shoal

The Philippines imposed a two-month ban on fishing around a disputed South China Sea shoal on Wednesday, after saying it did not recognise a similar order by China.

Both countries have had ships posted at Scarborough Shoal since April 10, when Chinese vessels prevented a Philippine ship from arresting Chinese fishermen.

The fishing bans, both of which came into effect on Wednesday, are seen by observers as an opportunity for a face-saving way by the two claimants to back away from the maritime row.

"We are implementing our own closed season for the area," Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Asis Perez said.

"This is based on reports... that there are so many fishermen in the area so we should close that part of the sea so (the shoal) can take a breather."

China's action, which it also says is aimed at curbing over-fishing and includes the waters around the disputed shoal, runs to August 1.

President Benigno Aquino previously said that the Philippines was not bound by it and would follow its own rules regarding the shoal.

China currently has two government boats and 10 fishing boats around the shoal while the Philippines has two government vessels and one fishing boat, Manila says.

The shoal sits about 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the Philippines' main island of Luzon. The nearest major Chinese landmass is 1,200 kilometres northwest of the shoal, according to Philippine navy maps.

China claims the shoal along with most of the South China Sea, even up to the coasts of its Asian neighbours, while the Philippines claims the shoal as being well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

Also on Wednesday, Aquino named two "special envoys" to China to improve relations.

In recent weeks, the Chinese have impounded bananas from the Philippines and warned their tourists about visiting the country, raising fears that Beijing may use economic measures to put pressure on Manila.

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