Fact checks about countries

MISSING CONTEXT: Philippines lost Scarborough Shoal

Rappler
MISSING CONTEXT: Philippines lost Scarborough Shoal
An arbitral tribunal ruled in 2016 that small-scale Filipino and Chinese fishermen have 'traditional fishing rights' in the shoal, declaring it as a common fishing ground
At a glance:
  • Claim: The Philippines lost Scarborough Shoal during the Aquino administration. 
  • Rating: MISSING CONTEXT
  • The Facts: An arbitral tribunal ruled in 2016 that small-scale Filipino and Chinese fishermen have “traditional fishing rights” in the shoal, declaring it as a common fishing ground. Neither China nor the Philippines can prevent citizens of the other country from accessing the shoal.
  • Why we fact-checked this: The Facebook post with this claim has 970 reactions, 355 comments, and 247 shares as of writing. It was posted in a group with 68,000 members as of date.
Complete details:

On April 12, Facebook user Tesio Marlon posted a graphic in the Facebook group RUN SARA RUN for PRESIDENT, saying: “Media is telling a lie. We lost Scarborough Shoal during PNOY. We did not lose any of the remaining islands/water features in the West Philippine Sea during DUTERTE.”

This claim is missing context.

The Philippines filed an arbitration case in 2013 at an arbitral tribunal at The Hague, Netherlands against China’s 9-dash line claims, and the tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016.

The tribunal ruled that Filipino and Chinese small-scale fishermen have “traditional fishing rights” in the shoal, recognizing that the shoal is a common fishing ground. Thus, neither China nor the Philippines can prevent citizens of the other country from accessing the shoal. The tribunal reprimanded China for preventing Filipino fishermen from accessing the shoal.

The arbitration case challenged the validity of China’s 9-dash line claim to almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, and called on China to desist from unlawful activities that violate the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines. China claimed historic rights to the Scarborough Shoal, claiming that it was an island with its own exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration announced that an arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines in its case against China. The arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that there was “no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources, in excess of the rights provided for by the Convention, within the sea areas falling within the ‘9-dash line.’”

Duterte declared in a 2020 speech addressed to the United Nations assembly that the Philippines “firmly rejects attempts to undermine” the ruling. “The Award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish, or abandon,” he said.

More recently, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Duterte reiterated to Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian that the Philippines stands by its victory at the tribunal. This came after the Philippine Coast Guard reported the sighting of 220 Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea last March.

On April 13, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea noted the increased presence of Chinese Ships manned by Chinese maritime militia in the WPS. Since April 5, the Philippines has filed daily diplomatic protests over Chinese ships in the WPS. – Therese Litonjua/Rappler.com

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Therese Litonjua is a Rappler intern. This fact check has been reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s internship program here.

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