PHL asserts rights over Scarborough Shoal amid China’s claim that shoal is its “inherent territory”

Incident last March 2 was fourth close maneuver of Chinese Coast Guard vessel with PHL Coast Guard vessel in Bajo de Masinloc

Screengrab of a video from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) showing the close distance maneuvering of a Chinese Coast Guard vessel near the PCG vessel in the Scarborough Shoal this March 2022. (Courtesy Philippine Coast Guard)


(Eagle News) – The Philippines has “full sovereignty” over Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal amid a recent statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry asserting “sovereign rights” in the area.

“The Philippine position is we continue to exercise full sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc and its territorial sea, as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the surrounding EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and continental shelf,” said Acting Presidential Spokesperson Martin Andanar in a statement on Tuesday, March 29.

The Philippine Coast Guard on Sunday, March 27, said that one of its vessels, the BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402) has reported one close distance maneuvering incident involving a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel during its maritime patrol operations in Bajo de Masinloc on March 2.

This is the fourth reported “close distance maneuvering incident” involving Chinese Coast Guard vessels in Scarborough Shoal, with the first three incidents occurring in May and June last year, according to PCG Commandant, CG Admiral Artemio Abu.

-4 incidents of close maneuver of China Coast Guard in Scarborough Shoal since 2021-

The most recent incident happened this March 2 when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel with a bow number 3305 “conducted a close distance maneuvering of approximately 21 yards towards BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402)” which the PCG vessel was sailing in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal.

“This constrained the maneuvering space of BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402) — a clear violation of the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS),” the PCG said.

The first incident occurred on May 19, 2021 when the PCG-manned BFAR vessel, MCS-3005 reported the close distance maneuvering involving a CCG vessel with bow number 3301.

The second and third incidents involved two CCG vessels (bow numbers: 3301 and 3103) that conducted close distance maneuvering with BRP Capones (MRRV-4404) and BRP Sindangan (MRRV-4407) during the PCG’s maritime capability enhancement exercises in Bajo de Masinloc on 01 to 02 June 2021.

“The behavior of the involved CCG vessels increased the risk of collision with four of our capital ships. Hence, we immediately coordinated with the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to address this issue through rules-based and peaceful approaches,” the Coast Guard Commandant said.

-China claims PHL “interfering” with their patrol-

But Chinese Foreign Minister spokesperson Wang Wenbin justified the incidents and insisted China had sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal and its adjacent waters. He claimed the Shoal was “China’s inherent territory.”

“We hope that the Philippine ships will earnestly respect China’s sovereignty and rights and interests, abide by China’s domestic law and international law, and avoid interfering with the patrol and law enforcement of the China Coast Guard in the above-mentioned waters,” Wang said.

Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal is also known as Panatag Shoal. It is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales, and is within the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ.

The Philippines has won a landmark arbitral ruling on July 12, 2016 in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands that invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim that virtually covered the entire South China Sea.

China, however, refused to accept this ruling.

The Scarborough Shoal was also at the center of a standoff in 2012 between China and the Philippines where the United States had failed to fulfill its promise to come to the aid of its partner, the Philippines, through the existing mutual defense treaty. This led to the Philippines initiating arbitration proceedings against China’s nine-dash claim before The Hague.

(Eagle News Service)

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