The fishermen of Masinloc and Sta. Cruz, Zambales had fished the Scarborough Shoal for generations. In the past several years, Filipino fishing boats had been harassed and prevented from fishing near the fish-rich shoal by incursions of Chinese fishing and militia boats.
In June 2019, a Chinese militia ship sank a Filipino boat in the South China Sea in an act of aggression that left the Philippines looking weak and powerless. The Chinese Navy has boldly sailed its aircraft carrier and escort ships through the Philippines’ Sibutu Passage without prior permission, violating Philippine sovereignty. China is claiming almost all of the territory of the South China Sea that includes the West Philippine Sea within the nine-dash line that it has drawn around the edge of the South China Sea.
The Scarborough Shoal, the Spratlys and Pag-asa groups of islands and other islands are well within the Philippines’ 12-nautical mile territorial sea and the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. In the face of Chinese claims, this right has been upheld by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. In a historic decision, the court declared “there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line.” “Having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the tribunal found that it could — without delimiting a boundary — declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.”