MANILA, Philippines – China continues to intimidate Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a US Navy official said.
“Chinese Coast Guard vessels now fall under the command of the Central Military Commission and regularly harass and intimidate fishing vessels from our treaty ally, the Philippines, operating near Scarborough Reef, as well as the fishing fleets of other regional nations,” US Indo-Pacific commander Adm. Philip Davidson said in his prepared testimony before the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 12.
Last year, the crew of a Chinese Coast Guard vessel were caught on video taking away the best catch of Filipino fishermen in the area.
China also stopped a Filipino television crew from filming a documentary in Panatag Shoal.
The disputed shoal, a small ring of reefs, is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
China seized control of the shoal in 2012 after a tense standoff with the Philippine Navy, which later prompted the Philippines to file a case against China before the international arbitration court.
Part of the ruling which came out in 2016 classified the Scarborough Shoal as a traditional fishing ground that should be shared by neighboring countries.
China, however, continues to control the shoal despite the verdict.
“Beijing maintains maritime claims in the South China Sea that are contrary to international law and pose a substantial long-term threat to the rules-based international order,” Davidson said.
“Beijing ignored the 2016 ruling of an arbitral tribunal established under Annex VII of the Law of the Sea Convention, which concluded that China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the nine-dash line are contrary to UNCLOS and without legal effect,” he said.
Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. told reporters on Tuesday that the military is constantly monitoring developments in the disputed waters and reporting unusual incidents to concerned agencies like Department of National Defense and Department of Foreign Affairs.