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Reported Facts on the Ground and on the Waters

Filipino Fishermen Reportedly Harassed by Chinese Ships Near Scarborough Shoal

Compiled by Rosa Tran

27 September 2016

Filipino fishermen were reportedly harassed by Chinese Coast Guard in Scarborough Shoal recently despite a ruling in July by an arbitration tribunal granting access to Filipinos who traditionally fish there and calls by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for China to allow fishing in the area.

In a report submitted to the National Security Council—Task Force West Philippine Sea (NSC), Philippine Coast Guard said that three Chinese Coast Guard vessels and two Filipino boats were seen at the traditional fishing route last Sept. 6.

“The Chinese Coast Guard Vessel moved to the location of a Filipino banca. Upon reaching the Filipino banca, a Chinese Coast Guard personnel onboard a rubber boat ordered the Filipino banca to leave the area,” the NSC quoted the Philippine Coast Guard as saying in a statement issued Tuesday.

The NSC said the crew of the Filipino boat was bargaining with the Chinese Coast Guard personnel to let them stay in the area to fish. Another Chinese Coast Guard rubber boat headed towards the Filipino fishing bancas.

The local fishermen, however, refused to leave the area.

“During that time, the captain of the Filipino banca signaled his crew members to return to their mother boat,” the NSC said.

Philippine Coast Guard operatives then spotted another Filipino boat approaching the shoal.

“When the Filipino banca was around three nautical miles from Bajo de Masinloc (another name for Scaborough Shoal), it was blocked by the Chinese Coast Guard. The Filipino banca outmaneuvered the Chinese Coast Guard vessel,” the PCG report said.

“Two Chinese rubber boats were deployed to intercept the Filipino banca from reaching Bajo de Masinloc. The Chinese rubber boats eventually disengaged and went back to their respective mother boats.”

The three Filipino boats stayed within the area for the night but left in the morning for fear of being harassed by the Chinese ships.

“A number of the Chinese Coast Guard personnel were seen taking photos and videos. The Filipino banca decided to leave the area to avoid further harassment.”

NSC said the PCG monitored a China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy ship patrolling the shoal the following day. A Chinese Coat Guard vessel was also seen near the vicinity of the shoal on Sept. 10.

The Department of National Defense said the actions of the Chinese were contrary to the arbitration tribunal’s ruling declaring the area as a traditional fishing ground and open to all.

“Their action runs counter to the ruling of the PCA and denies our fisher folk access to what has always been their traditional fishing ground. We advise our countrymen to always keep their personal safety in mind when venturing into the area,” DND public affairs service director Arsenio Andolong reportedly told reporters.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, during a press briefing at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, said “we are trying to verify this and determine why China is doing this, especially as we have already received reports before that they have allowed our fishermen to fish at Scarborough Shoal.”

“We would hope that we would be able to thresh out these concerns and issues with the Chinese in a peaceful manner,” Yasay said, adding, “As I understand, we all agree with China, Vietnam and the Philippines that Scarborough Shoal had been the traditional fishing ground of these three countries, regardless of what the arbitral tribunal has decided on the matter.”

Yasay dismissed reports that China is planning to undertake reclamation activities on the shoal.

“Our intelligence information, as I understand it, would seem to verify at this point in time that they are not undertaking reclamation activity. In fact, the information being shared to us by the Americans in this regard, on the basis of their own surveillance, will also confirm that these vessels are not intended for reclamation purposes,” the foreign minister told the reporters during the Tuesday’s press briefing.

Related articles:

Reported Facts on the Ground and on the Waters: https://seasresearch.wordpress.com/category/reported-facts-on-the-ground-and-on-the-waters/

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