Philippines asserts sovereignty over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal

An April 11, 2012 press release from the Department of Foreign Affairs

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced today that a Philippine Navy (PN) surveillance aircraft monitored eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored inside the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal on Sunday, April 8, 2012, in the course of its enforcement of the Philippine Fisheries Code and marine environment protection laws.

The Panatag Shoal is an integral part of Philippine territory. The Shoal is 124 nautical miles from the nearest basepoint in Zambales Province. It is within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf.

To protect the marine environment and resources in the Panatag Shoal and to assert Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights over the area as a responsible coastal state, the PN deployed the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) from Palawan to Northern Luzon waters on April 8, 2012 to conduct maritime patrol over the Shoal. In the course of its patrol, PF-15 confirmed the presence of the eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored inside the lagoon of the shoal. The PN vessel remained in the vicinity of the shoal for continuous monitoring of the fishing vessels.

In the morning of April 10, 2012, Tuesday, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, in accordance with the established Rules of Engagement, dispatched a boarding team to inspect the fishing vessels and collect photos and other evidence of their catch. The inspection team reported that large amounts of illegally collected corals, giant clams and live sharks were found inside the compartments of the first fishing vessel that was boarded by the PN team.

The BRP Gregorio del Pilar later reported two Chinese maritime surveillance ships identified as Zhonggou Haijian 75 and Zhonggou Haijian 84 managed to sail at the mouth of the Shoal, placing themselves between PF-15 and the eight Chinese fishing vessels, thus preventing the arrest of the erring Chinese fishermen.

This situation has remained unchanged as of this morning, Wednesday, April 11, 2012.

To seek a diplomatic solution, Secretary Foreign Affairs Albert F. del Rosario communicated to Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing in the evening of April 10, 2012 that the Panatag Shoal is an integral part of Philippine territory and the PN is enforcing Philippine laws on the Shoal, which is within the Philippine EEZ and Continental Shelf.

Furthermore, Secretary del Rosario has invited Ambassador Ma to the DFA this morning for further discussion of this issue. 🙄

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