The Scarborough challenge


Last July, the Arbitration Tribunal in the Hague ruled that the waters around Scarborough Shoal lay within the Economic Exclusive Zone of the Philippines and that Filipino fishermen possessed traditional fishing rights at the Shoal.

China has chosen to reject the decision and continues to keep Filipino fishermen out of the area. A think tank, the CSSI, recently reported: “ We’re seeing bullying, harassment and ramming of vessels from countries whose coast guard and fishing vessels are much smaller, often to assert sovereignty throughout the South China Sea. In the meantime, while Filipino fishermen are being prevented from fishing, Chinese fishermen have been actively fishing in Scarborough Shoal. Recently, even large purse seiner fishing boats have been spotted in the area.

While it has become a common sight to see hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels in the area, it has also become noticeable that China has increased the number of its combat vessels patrolling the Scarborough Shoal. From the usual two to three vessels, it has now increased to more than a dozen combat vessels.

Recently, China sent seven coast guard vessels and over 200 hundred fishing vessels to the waters around Senkaku Island in the East China Sea – an area claimed by Japan. This incursion drew protest and a strong reaction from Japan. Is China planning to do the same thing in the Scarborough Shoal?