Author: Ankit Panda
The Diplomat, 1st November 2016
Scarborough Shoal remains under the watch of the China Coast Guard, but Philippine fishermen have access once again.
Last week, following accounts by fishermen, the Philippines’ defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, confirmed that Filipino fisherman had access to Scarborough Shoal. “Since three days ago there are no longer Chinese ships, coastguard or navy, in the Scarborough area,” Lorenzana told reporters, according to Reuters.
Lorenzana since clarified that the claim made Friday was perhaps too hasty. China Coast Guard ships remain at the shoal, but Philippine fishermen are able to access the waters near Scarborough “unmolested.” Though the situation is no doubt an improvement from the status quo in the aftermath of the July 12 ruling by a Hague-based tribunal on the maritime disputes between Manila and Beijing in the South China Sea, it is not a return to the status of the shoal in 2012 — before China seized it from the Philippines following a stand-off.
Lorenzana on Sunday nevertheless described the situation at Scarborough as “a most welcome development.” Adding to Lorenzana’s assessment, the Philippine Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said, “The Palace welcomes the good development for our fishermen at the Panatag Shoal,” using the Philippine name for the shoal, which China calls Huangyan Dao.
On Monday, China clarified the state of play at Scarborough somewhat. Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said that the “Chinese side has always been exercising normal jurisdiction over Huangyan Dao.” She added: “The situation there is and will remain unchanged.”
“We have seen all-round improvement of China-Philippines relations following President Duterte’s visit to China. Under such circumstances, the Chinese side makes proper arrangements based on the friendship between China and the Philippines in response to the issue of President Duterte’s concern,” Hua continued.
The Chinese foreign ministry’s statement remains non-committal about the recent changes at Scarborough, which came after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s closely watched visit to China, where he and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping concluded a range of agreements and agreed to sustain bilateral negotiations over the South China Sea dispute.
China Tightens Grip on Scarborough Shoal Post-Ruling: https://seasresearch.wordpress.com/2016/10/28/china-tightens-grip-on-scarborough-shoal-post-ruling/
Reported Facts on the Ground and on the Waters: https://seasresearch.wordpress.com/category/reported-facts-on-the-ground-and-on-the-waters/