MANILA, Philippines – China is also reiterating its assertion of sovereignty over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as it tries to work with the Philippines in solving a standoff in the disputed islet.
In a statement on Wednesday, April 11, China explained its side on the incident, where 8 fishing vessels and 2 marine surveillance ships from China are on a standoff with the BRP Gregorio del Pilar of the Philippine Navy on the island, which the Chinese call Huangyan Island.
“[The] Chinese Embassy got the report that 12 Chinese fishing boats are getting in the lagoon of Huangyan Island and take shelter due to harsh weather conditions when a Philippine Naval gunboat blocked the entrance of the lagoon, and sent 12 Philippine soldiers, 6 of which armed, went into the lagoon and harassed the Chinese fishermen,” the statement from the Embassy’s Political Section said.
The Chinese marine surveillance ships are “fulfilling the duties of safeguarding Chinese national maritime rights and interests,” when they tried to help the Chinese fishing boats at the lagoon, the statement said.
“Upon getting the report, the Embassy immediately lodged a representation to the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines and reiterated China’s sovereignty over Huangyan Island, urged the Philippine side to stop immediately their illegal activities and leave this area,” it said.
“The Chinese Embassy hereby reiterates that Huangyan Island is an integral part of the Chinese territory and the waters around it is the traditional fishing area for the Chinese fishermen, for which China has abundant historical and jurisprudence backings,” it said.
“The fact that China has sovereign rights and exercises jurisdiction over the Huangyan Island is widely respected by the international community,” the Chinese Embassy added.
The incident is the latest flare-up in tensions between the two countries over competing territorial claims to parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.
The Philippines says it has sovereign rights over areas of the sea within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, and that its position is supported by international law.
“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,” the DFA statement said.
Apart from China and the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, also have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, making the waters one of Asia’s potential flashpoints for armed conflict. – With a report from the Agence France-Presse