Jorge R. Imbaquingo, Editor for El Comercio
August 9, 2020 00:00
Oswaldo Jarrín is a retired General of the Armed Forces. He came to office in 2018 as the first ex-military, after 12 years in which there were only civilians.
In 2005 he held that position in the government of Alfredo Palacio. In the Cenepa War, in 1995, he was Director of Army Operations
What is the problem of fishing near the Galapagos Islands, in a geopolitical context? It is a geopolitical problem.
Only I would make a small modification: at present, the importance is not only geopolitics, but geoeconomics. This is characterized because the countries develop a technological potential to project their power, to control important areas, such as the high seas, in the proximity of our exclusive economic zone.
The main objective is to obtain resources that increase its economy. And, additionally, there is influence that has projected its maritime power to the coasts of the American Pacific. But for geoeconomics to apply, there must be strategic objectives. In China’s White Paper, its objectives are: not to exercise hegemony, this is directed at the US; not participate in internal affairs; seek mutual benefit with the countries where they are; and seek dialogue to resolve conflicts.
These four strategic objectives of Chinese defense policy accompany the geoeconomics of the current problems.
How does being in Convemar benefit us in this geoeconomic situation?
If we belong to the Constitution of the Seas we are represented by the Convemar and 168 countries. This means that we live in a time of multilateralism, of international law.
An isolated criterion cannot be established, as has been said in some ridiculous speeches, indicating that patriotism must demand a return to 200 nautical miles, as previously stated. We are in a globalized world, where the law is based on international organizations and support for rights at sea.
The US has come out in favor of Ecuador. Are we in a tug of war between the US and China? How to take advantage of this situation?
A country does not necessarily have to be in the Convemar to have shared interests. In the case of the US, it does not belong to Convemar but it does have interests. When you say what you are going to do in this situation, it really is a point of great interest and characterizes geoeconomics. When I explain what China’s strategic objectives are, the results are based on them. And is that it is establishing a moratorium that allows China and Ecuador to have an inspection on board, considering that the ships are at sea. At no time have they been in the exclusive economic zone. This is part of a bilateral agreement, but it is not all.
For what reason?
Because if it is on the high seas, there must be coverage of all coastal countries and that belong, for example, to the United Nations New York Agreement: which protects the law of the sea and conservation, the management of the populations of migrant transnational species.
There it runs into the Galapagos, which has protected species that are not exclusively in our exclusive economic zone. In addition, it must be considered that there is illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing; as established by the FAO, it is not exclusively from Ecuador and China, it is a global, global issue.
There are reports that Chinese vessels turn off devices to avoid detection. You can give?
It is a given. There are those who fish using illegal mechanisms such as changing their name, the flag or turning off the satellite identification device so that they are not located. Those are illegal activities on the high seas, and who can verify those illegal activities?
It is not Ecuador, it is the region, the coastal countries, who belong to the international fishing regulation organizations.
We have the Permanent Commission of the South Pacific of Ecuador. These organizations have certain points that must be met by international fishing: catch quotas, evaluations, surveillance, inspection and avoiding transshipment. What does transshipment mean? As it is a large convoy, not everyone is fishing, there are ‘mother ships’ where the fish is deposited.
And is it true that they are supplied with Ecuadorian fuel?
That is speculation. Imagine a 260-ship convoy that is supplied with 50 gallons. No. It is ridiculous that a whole convoy comes without fuel: they come with ‘mother ships’, with suppliers, and they can also be resupplied from some port, but not from Ecuador, because there is organization by the State, since there are even assigned quotas for artisanal and industrial fishing.
In addition, the Ministry of Defense has been monitoring for more than a month, alerted and issued orders to the Joint Command for the deployment of a force. There is a great effort of the Naval Force that has the scientific work with the Inocar, we have also presented a Navigation Law a year and a half ago. Everything we speak lends itself to light criteria, because there is no seriousness to assess that Ecuador is part of the Convemar. All the actions we take are to preserve national sovereignty.
This content has been originally published by EL COMERCIO newspaper at the following address: https: //www.elcomercio.com/app_public.php/actualidad/ministro-defensa-oswaldo-jarrin-entrevista.html
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