Anger grows in Philippines over China’s control of shoal


Public backlash as documentary shows Filipino fishermen accusing Chinese para-military forces of forcibly taking the best of their catch

Once again, the Scarborough Shoal dispute is threatening to torpedo Philippine-China relations. Two years into office, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is facing a widespread public backlash over reports that the Chinese coast guard is controlling the contested shoal and surrounding areas and routinely harasses Filipino fishermen.

In a widely-watched documentary broadcast on the GMA Network, a major Filipino television channel, Filipino fishermen accused Chinese para-military forces of forcibly taking up to 30 kilos of their precious catch – worth thousands of dollars – in exchange for expired noodles and cigarettes.

Under the Philippine Baselines Law of 2009 (Republic Act 9522), the Scarborough Shoal, along with the Spratly chain of islands, are classified as a “regime of islands under the Republic of the Philippines.”

According to influential Philippine maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal, the shoal is “one of the oldest known fishing grounds of the Philippines, from its awakening as an independent nation-state. Previously, it was known as Scarborough Shoal, and published maps of the Commonwealth Period even included Scarborough Shoal among the natural resources of the Philippine Islands, particularly in its inventory of fishing banks.”