KUALA LUMPUR: Gugusan Beting Patinggi Ali in the South China Sea belongs to Malaysia and is not subject to overlapping claims, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.
He said the shoals, located about 80 nautical miles from Tanjung Baram, Sarawak, were clearly within the Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone going by the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS 1982).
UNCLOS 1982 entitles a littoral state like Malaysia to claim an EEZ and continental shelves up to 200 nautical miles from shore, he added.
As such, Malaysian fishermen were free to fish in the EEZ and any foreign coast guard vessel entering the area could be assumed to be encroaching, he said when contacted by Bernama.
Anifah was asked for his comments on recent media reports that fishermen from Miri, Sarawak, had been chased away by China’s coast guard personnel who were always present in these shoals.
Anifah said appropriate measures were always taken to ensure the preservation of national interests in the South China Sea.
“These include patrols and surveillance as well as enforcement activities,” he said.
The minister said vessels from the Royal Malaysia Navy and Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) patrolled the waters of Gugusan Beti Patinggi Ali, 65 nautical miles north-west of Miri, to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty in the area.
“As such, local fishermen do not have to be afraid of fishing in the Gugusan Beting Patinggi Ali area,” he said.
China coast guard vessels have reportedly anchored in the waters of Gugusan Beting Patinggi Ali and had been monitored since 2013 without any provocation by either country.
Last August, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, who holds responsibility over MMEA, said the government had been sending diplomatic notes almost every week and would continue with the diplomatic protest against encroachment by the foreign vessels. — Bernama