92 Chinese vessels in Scarborough; PH has 2

MANILA, Philippines – Two Philippine vessels remain locked in a standoff with up to 92 Chinese vessels in the disputed Scarborough Shoal, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday, May 23.

The DFA said it is protesting these actions as “clear violations” of the Philippines' territorial claim over the area officially known as Bajo de Masinloc.

Citing data from the Philippine Coast Guard, the DFA said the Philippines only has one vessel from the PCG and another from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as of Tuesday, May 22.

In contrast, China had 16 fishing vessels and 76 utility boats, the DFA said.

On Monday, May 21, the Philippines also monitored 5 Chinese government vessels in the area, but the DFA's latest statement failed to mention if these ships remained in Scarborough Shoal as of Tuesday.

The standoff in the area, which is now approaching its second month, began with 8 fishing boats and 2 surveillance ships last April.

Protest vs China

The DFA said it has sent the Chinese embassy a note verbale, dated May 21, regarding this incident.

“It is regrettable that these actions occurred at a time when China has been articulating for a de-escalation of tensions and while the two sides have been discussing how to defuse the situation in the area,” the DFA said.

It added the increase in Chinese vessels threatens the marine ecosystem in Scarborough Shoal as well as the whole West Philippine Sea. “The Philippines has documented the many instances where Chinese fishermen have unlawfully dredged the area and illegally harvested giant clams and corals,” the DFA said.

This Philippine protest came amid a fishing ban implemented by both the Philippines and China in the South China Sea. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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