MANILA – The illegal confiscation of some Filipino fishermen’s equipment at the Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) last May prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to lodge a diplomatic protest against China.
In a media statement, the DFA said it filed the note verbale on Thursday. It did not elaborate on the incident but say the CCG illegally seized the Filipino nationals’ fish aggregating devices called payaos.
It then castigated China’s “continuing illicit issuances of radio challenges on Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea”.
The Scarborough Shoal, also known as the Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal in Filipino, is a triangle-shaped coral reef situated 124 nautical miles off Zambales.
In a 2016 landmark decision, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that both Filipinos and Chinese, as well as other fishermen from other countries, have “traditional fishing rights” at Scarborough Shoal and that China cannot restrict access in the area.
Since a standoff between some Chinese ships and the Philippine Navy in 2012, China has maintained a steady presence in the area. The Filipino fishermen were only able to operate back after Manila’s pursuit of friendlier ties with China in 2016, which paved for a temporary arrangement between the two nations.
The Philippines since 2018 had been pushing for a permanent fishing agreement at the Bajo de Masinloc but no accord has been signed yet by all the claimant states.
What comes close is the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) that is being crafted by Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The said COC envisions a set of regional rules to avoid conflict and confrontation in the contested waters. Joyce Ann L. Rocamora / PNA – northboundasia.com