Posts Tagged ‘Filipino fishermen’

South China Sea: One of the World’s Biggest Fisheries Is on the Verge of Collapse

March 26, 2017

South China Sea’s most important resource – its fish – is disappearing

Major disputes in the South China Sea are putting critical habitat—and the food supply of millions—at risk.

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Dock workers use cranes to off-load frozen tuna from a Chinese-owned cargo vessel at the General Santos Fish Port, in the Philippines. Tuna stocks in the South China Sea have plummeted in recent years because of overfishing. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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By Rachael Bale
National Geographic
PUBLISHED AUGUST 29, 2016

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PUERTO PRINCESA, PHILIPPINES — Years ago Christopher Tubo caught a 660-pound blue marlin in the South China Sea. The fishing was good there, he says. Tuna fishermen would come home from a trip with dozens of the high-value fish as well as a good haul of other species.

“Here there’s none of that,” he says, looking toward the Sulu Sea, the Philippine sea where he’s been fishing for the past four years. His two boats, traditional Filipino outriggers called bancas, float in the shallow water nearby, new coats of white paint drying in the sun.

Tubo is sitting on a wooden bench in front of his home, which perches on stilts above the bay. One of his four kids wraps an arm around his leg. Worn T-shirts and shorts flutter on clotheslines behind them.


A worker carries a line-caught yellowfin tuna at the General Santos Fish Port, which is known as the “tuna capital of the Philippines.” The South China Sea, through which tuna migrate, produces more fish than almost anywhere else, but it has been severely overfished and is nearing collapse. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Glancing over at his wife, Leah, and the other children, he says, “It’s just chance, whether or not we can feed our families now.”

Tubo lives in Puerto Princesa, a city of 255,000 on Palawan, a long finger of an island that faces the Sulu Sea and the Philippine archipelago to the east and the contested South China Sea to the west. He’s one of the nearly 320,000 fishermen in the Philippines who have traditionally made their livelihoods from the South China Sea—and one of a growing number who are now fishing in other waters because of increasing Chinese interference. Beginning around 2012, China adopted a more assertive posture in the sea’s long-running territorial dispute, building military installations on contested islands and increasingly using its coast guard to intimidate fishermen from other countries.

It was after a Chinese coast guard vessel attacked a friend’s fishing boat with water cannons that Christopher Tubo stopped fishing the South China Sea.

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Filipino fishermen aboard the Ninay haul in sardines and scad in national waters near the South China Sea. The territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea have increased competition for dwindling fish stocks of all species.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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“One minute you’ll see an airplane, the next thing there’s a naval boat,” he says, describing how the Chinese attempt to keep fishermen from other countries out of the disputed area. “If we kept going over there, maybe we won’t be able to go home to our families.”

“As they see it, it’s theirs now, and Filipinos are forbidden,” says Henry Tesorio, an elected councilor for a fishing village in Puerto Princesa.

Vietnamese fishermen could say the same thing. Some 200 Vietnamese from the island of Ly Son, 15 miles (24 kilometers) off the mainland, reported being attacked by Chinese boats in 2015, according to local Vietnamese government officials.


The lights on the Melissa attract fish toward the boat and up to the surface. A storm later forced the boat to return to Quezon, a fishing village on the island of Palawan, in the Philippines. Fishermen from the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and elsewhere all fish the South China Sea.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Tubo’s decision not to fish in the South China Sea speaks to the rising tensions in the region, which are causing fierce competition for natural resources. Encompassing 1.4 million square miles (3.7 million square kilometers), the South China Sea is of critical economic, military, and environmental importance: $5.3 trillion in international trade plies its waters annually; in terms of biodiversity, it is thought of as the marine equivalent of the Amazon rain forest; and its fish provide food and jobs for millions in the 10 countries and territories that surround it.

Of those, seven—China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia—have competing claims to the sea’s waters and resources. So it’s understandable why all eyes have been focused on the political and military wrangling. If war broke out over these claims, it would pit two superpowers, China and the United States—a longtime Philippine ally and guarantor of freedom of navigation in the Pacific Ocean—against each other.

South China Sea map. Credit Center for Strategic and International Studies

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But another less publicized, also potentially disastrous, threat looms in the South China Sea: overfishing. This is one of the world’s most important fisheries, employing more than 3.7 million people and bringing in billions of dollars every year. But after decades of free-for-all fishing, dwindling stocks now threaten both the food security and economic growth of the rapidly developing nations that draw on them.

China argues that it has a right to almost the entire South China Sea because it says it has historically exercised jurisdiction in that area, which China delineates on maps with a U-shaped “nine-dash” line (see map). Every other disputant in the South China Sea, including the Philippines, bases its maritime claims on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international agreement that defines maritime zones.

Opposing Beijing’s expansionist claims, in 2013 the Philippines brought a case against China before an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration—a forum for settling international disputes—in The Hague, Netherlands. China refused to participate. On July 12, the tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines on almost all its claims, declaring that China forfeited the possibility of any historically based rights when it ratified the UN convention in 1996. China has vowed to ignore the ruling.

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Crew members take shelter from a storm aboard the Ninay. Filipino fishermen have reported increasing interference from Chinese coast guard vessels in the South China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea for itself.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Competition for fish has exacerbated the dispute, and the dispute has intensified competition among fishermen, further depleting fish. Some parts of the South China Sea have less than a tenth of the stocks they had five decades ago. And high-value fish such as tuna and grouper are becoming scarcer.

“What we’re looking at is potentially one of the world’s worst fisheries collapses ever,” says John McManus, a marine biologist at the Rosenstiel School at the University of Miami who studies the region’s reefs.

.“We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of species that will collapse, and they’ll collapse relatively quickly, one after another.”

MONICA SERRANO, NG STAFF
SOURCES: COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS; U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION;
OCEANASIA 2015, REPORTED AND ESTIMATED UNREPORTED CATCHES; RANDALL AND LIM, 2000; CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

Fishermen on the Front Lines

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As coastal waters are depleted, fishermen have been forced to venture farther offshore and into disputed waters to make a living. China has seized this as an opportunity to bolster its claims by aggressively supporting its fishermen. Beijing has consolidated the coast guard, militarized fishing fleets, and begun offering subsidies for bigger and better boats, water, and fuel. There’s even a special subsidy specifically for fishermen to fish in the contested Spratly Islands, more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) to the south.

“The only reason that smaller [Chinese] fishermen go out to the Spratlys is because they’re paid to do so,” says Gregory Poling, the director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the Center for Strategic Studies. This extra pressure has sped up the depletion of fish stocks, he says.

The Chinese have also been building artificial islands atop reefs in the Spratlys to support military installations there. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” says Zachary Abuza, an expert on Southeast Asian politics and maritime security at the National War College, in Washington, D.C. “China is trying to enforce its sovereignty through the construction of these islands and by denying other countries access to natural resources.”

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A couple sits outside a home built over the water in Quezon, where most people have family members who work as fishermen. Overfishing has put the livelihoods of many Filipinos at risk.
Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Eugenio Bito-onon, Jr.—until recently the mayor of the Kalayaan municipality, which includes islands in the Spratlys—is an outspoken advocate for the Philippines’ claims. Bito-onon and I met in the island’s cramped satellite office in Puerto Princesa, where he had a gigantic map of the South China Sea marked up with his own handwritten labels and colored dots showing which countries claim which features.

He pulls up Google Earth on his laptop and finds Thitu, an island in the Spratlys known locally as Pag-asa, where about 200 Filipinos, including a small number of troops, live part-time, their presence demonstrating the Philippines’ claim to the island. Rice, clothing, soap, and other necessities must be brought in by boat or airlift, and two government-owned generators are the only source of electricity. Bito-onon points out just how close Chinese-claimed Subi Reef is to Thitu. So close, he says, that on a clear day residents can see it on the horizon.

Even closer, though, are Chinese fishing boats, which he says have fished the reefs empty. “For the past three years, [the Chinese] never leave,” Bito-onon says from behind his laptop, now displaying satellite imagery of reefs around Thitu. “Chinese fishing boats come and go, replacing each other,” he says, but there are never not boats within sight of the island.

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A Filipino fisherman wades from boat to shore with part of the crew’s catch. Fishermen who go to the South China Sea report that their catches have gotten smaller in recent years. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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The Navotas Fish Port in Manila is the largest in the Philippines. The markets at the port trade in seafood from freshwater farms, national waters, and international waters, including the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
Gilbert Elefane, the Filipino captain of a tuna boat based in the municipality of Quezon, on Palawan, says he now sees up to a hundred boats, many Chinese, on a single two-week fishing trip in the South China Sea. Just a few years ago, he says he’d have seen no more than 30.

Beijing has provided military training and sophisticated GPS and communications technology to its fishermen so they can call in the coast guard if they have a run-in with a foreign law enforcement vessel or alert the coast guard of the presence of fishermen from other countries.

In the face of China’s island building, Vietnam has done some small-scale land reclamation of its own in an attempt to bolster its capacity in the Spratlys. Its efforts, however, have been less destructive than China’s.

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A dock worker uses a mallet to dislodge frozen tuna aboard a Chinese cargo vessel docked at the city of General Santos in the Philippines. The cargo vessel spends up to two months at sea with a fleet of a dozen tuna boats working to fill its freezer. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

As long as the conflict in the South China Sea continues, it will be nearly impossible to regulate fishing.

When one country tries to protect its fishing grounds, tensions flare. In March, for instance, Indonesian maritime law enforcement officials arrested eight Chinese on charges of illegal fishing. The fishermen were less than three miles (five kilometers) from Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. The Natunas themselves are not in dispute, but the waters north of them, which are particularly rich in gas, have become a new flashpoint. Under international law they’re Indonesian, but they partially overlap with China’s nine-dash line claims, so China says it has a right to fish there.

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A pregnant woman wades in the dirty water near the Navotas Fish Port. The Philippines’ economy relies heavily on fishing and the seafood trade, as do most of the countries around the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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When Indonesia’s vessel began towing the Chinese boat back to port, an armed Chinese coast guard ship appeared and began ramming the Chinese boat to break it free. The Indonesians were forced to let the boat go and retreat.

“It’s unclear whose laws you’re enforcing when you have seven overlapping sets of fisheries laws,” Poling says. “States have a vested interest in purposely violating fishing laws of other states.”

That’s because abiding by another country’s fishing law is tantamount to accepting that that country has jurisdiction over that region, which no country has been willing to do.

In 2012, a Philippine navy warship attempted to arrest Chinese fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, about 138 miles (220 kilometers) from the Philippine coast, on suspicion of illegal fishing and poaching rare corals, giant clams, and sharks. A Chinese coast guard ship interfered to prevent the arrests, forcing a standoff. After 10 weeks both sides agreed to withdraw, but once the Philippines left, China remained, effectively seizing control of the shoal.

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A fisherman at the General Santos Fish Port carries a yellowfin tuna caught in the South China Sea. Fishermen say the fish they catch now are smaller than before.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

 

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Workers at the Navotas Fish Port unload and sort fish from commercial boats that have returned from the South China Sea, where overfishing has exacerbated the land and sea disputes in the region.
Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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As Filipino fishermen have seen their catches—and the fish themselves—getting smaller, they’ve increasingly been resorting to dangerous, illegal fishing methods. Blast fishing, which Filipinos call “bong bong” fishing, involves setting off homemade bombs underwater to kill dozens of fish at one time. Cyanide fishing, which involves squirting fish in the face with poison to stun them, is used to catch live reef fish to supply high-end live seafood restaurants in Hong Kong and other large Asian cities. Both practices kill coral and other fish, collateral damage that’s pushing the sea ever closer to an overfishing crisis.

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Dock workers at the Navotas Fish Port sort through mussels. If the South China Sea fishery were to collapse, it would threaten the food supply of millions. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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China’s island building and giant clam poaching have caused most of them documented reef destruction in the South China Sea, an area totaling 62 square miles (163 square kilometers). Island building grinds up corals for use as foundation material, smothers reefs that become the base of islands, and creates sediment plumes that suffocate nearby reefs. Dredging to deepen ports also causes serious damage. And poaching of giant clams entails grinding up corals to loosen the shells from the reef.

“It’s quite possible we’re seeing a serious decline in about half of the reefs,” John McManus, the marine biologist, says. “That’s what I expect will happen, if it hasn’t happened already. It’s just total destruction.”

When a reef is destroyed, the ecosystem unravels. Reef fish lose their habitat, and pelagic fish such as tuna lose an important source of food. Furthermore, reefs in the South China Sea are connected. Fish larvae from one reef ride the current across the sea to repopulate another reef. If a reef disappears, so does that source of larvae, increasing the chance that local extirpations of fish species will be permanent.

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Dock workers and fishermen buy food from a street vendor at the Navotas Fish Port, in Manila. Some 320,000 Filipinos fish the South China Sea, and many more work on the docks, as fish packers, and as seafood traders, among other jobs.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

McManus says that many of the damaged reefs will be able to recover in a decade or two—if the island building and destructive giant clam poaching stop. He champions the idea of a “peace park,” a kind of marine protected area where all countries would put a freeze on their claims and halt all activities, like island building, that bolster those claims.

Experts also say cooperative regional management could go a long way toward making the South China Sea fishery sustainable. It would require dramatic cutbacks in the number of fishing boats and restrictions on fishing methods such as the use of huge fishing vessels that use powerful lights at night to attract tuna. All this would in turn mean helping fishermen find other ways to earn a living.

Under a sustainable management plan, tuna and mackerel could recover 17-fold by 2045, Rashid Sumaila and William Cheung at the University of British Columbia predicted in a 2015 report. Reef fish would recover up to 15 percent, and the catch and value of reef fish would also increase. Sharks and groupers, which are also high-value fish, would make a comeback too.

But Poling, of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, questions whether such a plan will happen in time. “What that requires is setting aside the disputes,” he says. “It’s possible—it’s just not likely. In order to have a successful joint management system, the first step is to agree on what area you’re talking about.” With China clinging to its nine-dash line while other countries base their claims on international law, agreement just won’t be possible, he says.

As it now stands, the South China Sea’s most important resource—its fish—is disappearing, and countries are either passively standing by or actively encouraging their fishermen to take more.

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Children fish at dusk in the fishing community of Quezon in the Philippines. Fishermen here ply their trade in national waters and the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Aurora Almendral contributed to this report.

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Coming Tuesday: China’s giant clam poaching is decimating reefs in the South China Sea.

Follow Rachael Bale on Twitter.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/wildlife-south-china-sea-overfishing-threatens-collapse/

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We at Peace and Freedom have catalogued much of the history of recent events and issues around the South China Sea for the past five years. Use these keywords to see more:

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 — From March 25, 2017 with links to other related articles

National Geographic:

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A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo )

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A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

 

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, the Philippines, to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

 

 (This    article has links to several  others related to environmental issues in the South China Sea).

A green sea turtle is seen off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

 (Includes Obama creates largest ocean reserve, takes heat for new federal decrees)

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

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Filipino activists and Vietnamese nationals display placards and chant anti-China slogans as they march outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila’s Makati financial district on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on Friday, May 16, 2014, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. — PHOTO: REUTERS

 

 (August 25, 2016)

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China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

 (Contains links to several related articles)

August 17, 2015
ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

 

 

An elderly Vietnamese protester holds a placard during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese consulate in the financial district of Manila on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on May 16, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. Many Vietnamese remain uneasy with China in the South china sea till this day.  AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

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The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP

 

 

Philippines: “Stand Up To China,” Some Allies of President Duterte Urge Him To Change Course Before It Is Too Late

March 23, 2017
ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2017 03:25 AM

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President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA — A senator and ally of President Rodrigo Duterte is asking him to rethink his “hands-off” approach in dealing with the South China Sea.

Duterte has drawn criticism for his response to the alleged Chinese encroachment on Benham Rise and reports that Beijing is also planning to build a station in Scarborough Shoal.

Reacting to reports that China plans to build a monitoring station in Scarborough, Duterte recently said that the Philippines cannot do anything to stop China from altering the disputed shoal, located some 124 nautical miles from Zambales.

China has since denied the report.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Duterte’s approach on the issue is wrong and the president must stand up to China.

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A Vietnamese Coast Guard captain speaks to other ships as a Chinese Coast Guard vessel cuts across its path to prevent access to an oil rig situated west of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. | BLOOMBERG

“It is incorrect to say that there is nothing we can do to stop China. We still have several legal and diplomatic options, all of which must be exhausted in defending Philippine territory from foreign aggression,” Gatchalian said.

“The Philippines should never allow itself to be bullied by anyone, no matter how big and powerful that bully might be.”

Gatchalian said Duterte must also invoke the Philippines’ legal victory against China should Beijing step up its aggression in the South China Sea.

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A Filipino fishing vessel ventures into the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. —REM ZAMORA

Last July, a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal invalidated China’s so-called nine-dash line claim to the South China Sea. It also said, Scarborough Shoal is a traditional fishing ground of the countries surrounding it and China may be violating the Philippines’ sovereign rights by blocking access to it.

“The favorable decision in the Philippines vs. China case is a potent tool we can use to enforce our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. It is our duty to invoke this ruling and take action before international legal institutions to contest any further acts of Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea,” Gatchalian said.

Philippines: Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary neither confirms nor denies reported strong formal protest to China on South China Sea

March 22, 2017
Composite photo shows acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. Aguirre announced that the Philippines is preparing a “strong” protest against China to be filed in the Hague, The Netherlands. Manalo, however, remained mum. AP

MANILA, Philippines — Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo neither confirmed nor denied the reported strong formal protest that the Philippines is set to file against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.

On Tuesday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II claimed that the Philippines is preparing to formally protest China’s plan to install a radar station at Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.

READ: Philippines prepares protest vs China over Panatag

Manalo, however, said that the Philippines is still waiting for China’s reply regarding its reported plan in the disputed shoal.

“The other day, the Department of Foreign Affairs already issued or requested China for clarification on this reported plan. As I said, it’s only a reported plan so we’re seeking clarification from China,” Manalo said at a televised press briefing in Thailand.

The Philippine government is maintaining a regular and a close watch over Scarborough Shoal, Manalo said.

The country’s top diplomat added that there has been no change in the shoal and that Filipino fishermen can still freely access the area.

He added that the Department of Foreign Affairs would be aware of any developments in the area as they are receiving reports from the Coast Guard and security agencies.

‘Strategy’ in the works

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, meanwhile, said that filing a protest in connection to the maritime dispute over the South China is part of the government’s strategy.

Apparently addressing criticisms of inconsistency in the government’s foreign policy, the senator said that a long-term strategy us being formulated in resolving issues in the contested waters.

“These are all parts of the dynamics and the strategy so please understand and give a latitude at the DFA… because although we do have to report to the people, what country will be able to achieve its objectives if we announce our strategy while we’re implementing our strategy,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano, who is chair of the Senate foreign affairs committee and is reportedly eyed to be the next top diplomat, assured the public that the president will fight for the country’s territory.

“We continue to assure the people that President Duterte will not give up a single centimeter of Philippine territory,” Cayetano said.

On July 12, 2016, a United Nations-backed tribunal issued its ruling on the Philippines’ complaint against China’s so-called nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

The arbitral tribunal ruled that China violated its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea when it built artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The Duterte administration, however, said that it will set aside the arbitral tribunal’s ruling for the meantime in settling the dispute.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/03/22/1683560/dfa-chief-manalo-mum-strong-protest-vs-china

Related:

 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

Philippines: President Duterte Foes Amend Impeachment Complaint, Call Duterte Stance on China ‘Dereliction of Duty’

March 20, 2017
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano holds a copy of the impeachment complaint he filed against President Duterte at the House of Representatives on Thursday. Philstar.com/File photo
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MANILA, Philippines — Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said that his group is considering  filing a supplemental complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly being subservient to China.
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Alejano’s statement came after Duterte claimed last week that he allowed China to send survey ships to Benham Rise as part of an agreement.
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The Department of Foreign Affairs last week said it was not aware of an agreement or policy over the Benham Rise region.
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In an interview on CNN’s ‘The Source,’ Alejano said that the president’s action is a matter of national security since there is a conflict of interest with China on the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that Manila claims.
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“We’re talking about national interest here, we’re talking about national security here because we have a clear conflict of interest in West Philippine Sea,” Alejano said.
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China has repeatedly reiterated its position over the South China Sea, saying it has a historical and legal claim over the vast area.
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An international tribunal however, ruled in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case against China, saying that China’s “nine-dash line” claim over a large part of the South China Sea, including part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, has no basis.
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In a speech on Sunday, Duterte also said that he cannot stop China from setting up a reported monitoring station in the Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc.
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“We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Hindi nga napara ng Amerikano,” Duterte said.
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Duterte added that the country will lose all of its military and policemen if he declares war against China.
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Alejano however, said that war is not the only solution, saying that the president could constantly raise issues in the West Philippines Sea.
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“He’s not doing that because he’s afraid to offend China,” Alejano said.
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He added that if Duterte said he cannot do anything to protect the country’s territory “then that’s dereliction of duty.”
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Related:
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 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

Philippine President Duterte Seeking Allies For At Sea Code of Conduct

March 20, 2017
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Duterte is welcomed by his Myanmar counterpart U Htin Kyaw at the Presidential Palace in the capital Naypyitaw yesterday. Duterte flew to Bangkok, Thailand last night. AP

MANILA, Philippines – In a bid to avoid tension in disputed areas in the South China Sea, President Duterte called for support for the approval of a Code of Conduct (COC) among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“It’s very important for China and the rest of the nations, especially the ASEAN, to come up with a Code of Conduct,” Duterte said in a press briefing in Myanmar on Sunday night.

The President also pitched for the COC while he was in Myanmar, which was part of the last leg of his introductory tour of Southeast Asia in the run-up to the ASEAN summit this November in Manila.

The Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) was signed by all members of ASEAN and China on Nov. 4, 2002. It lists the principles of self-restraint and non-militarization.

Duterte said he would invoke the arbitral ruling favoring Philippine claims if China starts gathering mineral resources from the disputed areas.

“Kung ang China kukuha na sila ng mga oil o uranium (If China starts getting oil or uranium) or whatever that’s inside the bowels of the sea, kalabitin ko sila (I will do something). Ako man rin ang may-ari niyan (We own it). You claim it by historical right, but by judgment I won and it’s mine,” he said.

But Duterte again admitted that the Philippines cannot stop China from building a radar station at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal because the Philippine military is no match for Chinese armed forces. And he cannot allow Filipino soldiers to go to disputed areas to avoid casualties.

“First hour pa lang ubos na ‘yun (they are finished already). We are not in a position to declare war,” he said.

“But I said to China that someday during my term as President, I will have to confront you about the arbitral ruling and that would be maybe, during the time when you begin to extract minerals and the riches of what is inside the bowels of the earth,” he added.

Duterte also claimed that the United States is also “scared” of China.

“Hindi nga natin mapigilan kasi hindi natin kaya ang China. Hindi nga mapigilan ng Amerikano. In the first place, sa umpisa pa lang niyan, hindi na pumunta ang Amerikano, natakot na (We cannot stop China. Even the Americans cannot stop it. In the first place, from the start America did not respond, they got scared right away),” he said.

He noted that what the Philippines has right now are only entitlements.

“Just entitlement, not territory. I said repeatedly it is not within our territorial waters. But what we are trying to achieve is that we are also recognized to own the entitlements,” he said.

“The structures have nothing to do with the economic zone. It might impede but actually it’s a construction that would disturb the navigation of the sea,” he added.

Despite China’s excessive claims, Duterte said he is working to further bolster economic and trade ties between Manila and Beijing.

Defend Panatag

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reminded Duterte that he has the constitutional duty to defend Panatag Shoal from Chinese incursion.

Carpio also formulated a five-point strategy on how the Duterte administration can respond to China’s reported plan to install a radar station in the disputed shoal.

The magistrate explained that Panatag is part of the national territory under Republic Act No. 9522 or Philippine Baselines Law and should be defended to “preserve for future generations of Filipinos their national patrimony in the West Philippine Sea.”

But he stressed that since the Philippines cannot match the military power of China, Duterte may opt for other actions to defend the country’s sovereignty over the shoal and fulfill his duty as president.

First, Carpio suggested that the government should file a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.

“This is what the Vietnamese did recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracels,” he added.

The PCA ruled that Panatag Shoal is a “common fishing ground” of fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from China and other neighboring countries and nullified China’s nine-dash line claim over South China Sea. The justice said the government could also send the Philippine Navy to patrol the shoal.

“If the Chinese attack Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” he suggested.

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Philippines: Supreme Court Associate Justice reminds President Rodrigo Duterte to avoid waiving Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory

March 20, 2017
By: – Reporter / @T2TupasINQ
/ 12:51 PM March 20, 2017
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Image may contain: ocean, sky, cloud, outdoor, water and nature
A Filipino fishing vessel ventures into the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. —REM ZAMORA

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reminded President Rodrigo Duterte to avoid any statement or declaration that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.

“This will preserve for future generations of Filipinos their natural patrimony in the West Philippine Sea,” Carpio said.

Carpio’s statement came after Duterte said he cannot stop China from implementing its plan to build structures on the disputed Panatag Shoal for now.

In 2012, China seized Panatag Shoal or the Scarborough Shoal after a tense standoff between Chinese and Filipino vessels. China denied Filipino fishermen access to Scarborough’s rich fish stock.

Filipinos have been able to go back to Scarborough after Duterte reached out to Beijing and restored good diplomatic ties, which were damaged when President Benigno Aquino III tried to forcefully enforce Philippine authority on the shoal.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that Panatag Shoal is a “common fishing ground” of fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from China and other neighboring countries.

Duterte said if the US was not able to stop China, what could the Philippines do?

Carpio said Duterte was the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces which is tasked by the Constitution to defend the country’s territory.

He pointed out that under Republic Act 9522 or the Philippines’ Baseline Law, Scarborough Shoal is part of the Philippine territory.

Carpio said since the Philippines was no match to China militarily, the President could fulfill his constitutional duty by doing any, some or all of the following:

  • File a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity.

“This is the least that the President should do,” Carpio said.

Carpio said that is what the Vietnamese did recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracels.

  • Send the Philippine Navy to patrol Scarborough Shoal.

Carpio said if the Chinese attack the Philippine navy vessels, the country can invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine Navy vessels operating in the South China Sea.

  • Ask the United States to declare that Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine territory for purposes of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty since the shoal has been part of  Philippine territory even during the American colonial period.

The high court’s Senior magistrate and an expert in the maritime dispute with China said “the US has declared the Senkakus as part of Japanese territory for purposes of the US-Japan mutual defense treaty.”

  • Accept the standing US offer to hold joint naval patrols in the South China Sea, which includes Scarborough Shoal.

Carpio said “this will demonstrate joint Philippine and US demonstration to prevent China from building on Scarborough Shoal.”

Aquino earlier tried to use the Navy to assert the rights of the Philippines over Scarborough, but China responded by sending more of its ships to the shoal.

China also began building artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea, which is reportedly already being militarized by Beijing.

The US has conducted patrols and freedom of navigation exercises in the West Philippine Sea but has not stopped China from reportedly arming its artificial islands. CBB/rga

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/882226/carpio-cautions-duterte-on-statements-about-west-philippine-sea#ixzz4bqE16wZP
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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

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Philippines Defense Minister: China likely to build more islands

February 7, 2017
/ 04:50 PM February 07, 2017

Satellite image of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, which located 124 nautical miles west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.

Satellite image of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, which located 124 nautical miles west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.

Manila expects China to try to build on a reef off the Philippines’ coast, the country’s defense secretary said Tuesday, a move he said would be “unacceptable” in the flashpoint waterway.

In an interview with AFP, Delfin Lorenzana said he believed China would eventually reclaim the Scarborough Shoal, which sits just 230 kilometers from the main Philippine island of Luzon.

Beijing has already built up a number of islets and reefs in the South China Sea, installing military facilities on several of them.

Analysts say that similar installations on Scarborough Shoal could give China effective military control over the disputed waterway — something the US has said it is not prepared to accept.

“They encroached,” Lorenzana said of a 2012 confrontation that saw Philippine vessels displaced. “They occupied three islands there plus they are trying to get Scarborough. So to us that is unacceptable”.

“If we allow them, they will build. That’s very, very disturbing. Very much (more) disturbing than Fiery Cross because this is so close to us,” Lorenzana added, referring to one of the Philippine-claimed reefs China has built on.

Because of its position, another military outpost at Scarborough Shoal is seen as the last major physical step required to secure control of the sea.

An outpost at the shoal would also put Chinese fighter jets and missiles within easy striking distance of US forces stationed in the Philippines.

The shoal also commands the northeast exit of the sea, so a Chinese military outpost there could stop other countries’ navies from using the vital stretch of waters.

A UN-backed tribunal — in a case brought by Manila under then-president Benigno Aquino — ruled last year that the so-called “nine-dash-line” which underpins Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea had no legal basis.

But his successor, Rodrigo Duterte, has courted Beijing and backed away from his country’s close relationship with the United States.

Lorenzana said Chinese island-reclamation efforts were meant to control the South China Sea.

“That could be their strategy to counter any superpower that would encroach on South China Sea because they believe South China Sea is — that’s like their lake to them — theirs,” he added.

The administration of new US President Donald Trump has indicated it will push back against any Chinese attempt to solidify control of the sea.

During confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US would block Chinese access to the islands, although analysts have pointed out that this would require a military blockade — an act of war

Read more: https://globalnation.inquirer.net/152424/china-likely-build-islands-lorenzana#ixzz4Y0tMxmgt
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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of the “nine dash line” as depted on this Chinese government chart. On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid
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South China Sea and China’s questionable claims — Chart by THE ECONOMIST

Five facts on Asia’s disputed Scarborough Shoal — Philippines says it expected China to try to build on a reef close to its coast

February 7, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The Scarborough Shoal is a small ring of reefs that lies about 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the Philippines and 650 kilometres from China

MANILA (AFP) – The Philippines said Tuesday it expected China to try to build on a reef close to its coast in a move it called “unacceptable” and “very disturbing”.

Reclamation of Scarborough Shoal off the main Philippine island of Luzon in a disputed area of the South China Sea could escalate tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Here are five facts about the shoal and why it is a potential flashpoint in Asia.

– What is it? –

Scarborough Shoal is a small ring of reefs that lies about 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the Philippines and 650 kilometres from the nearest major Chinese land mass, the southern island province of Hainan.

It is rich with marine life that fishermen from the Philippines, China and Vietnam have tapped for generations.

Although it is in the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, China and Taiwan also claim it falls within their sovereign territory, part of a broader row over territorial rights in the South China Sea.

– Why is it important? –

Beijing has moved aggressively in recent years to cement its claims to most of the South China Sea, assert military control over the waters and thus weaken US influence.

China has built islands and airstrips on reefs and islets in the Spratlys archipelago, a strategic location in the southern part of the sea.

A US-based think tank released photos in December showing Beijing appeared to have installed weapons systems at its outposts in the area.

Because of its position, another military outpost at Scarborough Shoal is seen as the last major physical step required to secure control of the sea.

An outpost at the shoal would also put Chinese fighter jets and missiles within easy striking distance of US forces stationed in the Philippines.

The shoal also commands the northeast exit of the sea, so a Chinese military outpost there could stop other countries’ navies from using the vital stretch of waters.

– What has happened there in the past? –

The shoal became part of US territory when the Philippines was made an American colony through the Treaty of Paris in 1898. It was transferred to the Philippines upon independence in 1946.

The Philippine navy then used it as a gunnery range for joint exercises with US forces, who had permanent bases nearby on Luzon island until 1991.

China took effective control of the shoal after an April 2012 stand-off with the Philippine Navy, and blocked Filipino fishermen from entering the shoal.

A UN-backed tribunal ruled last year that China’s claims to the South China Sea had no legal basis. It also ruled that blocking Filipino fishermen at the shoal was illegal.

However after new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited Beijing in October, Filipinos were allowed to fish again around the shoal.

Duterte then took a “unilateral” decision to make the lagoon at Scarborough a protected marine sanctuary, drawing criticism from local fishermen who feared another blockade.

– What happens next? –

China vowed to ignore the tribunal’s ruling and press on with artificial island building. Yet it denied doing any construction work at the shoal.

Then-US President Barack Obama reportedly warned Chinese President Xi Jinping last year against building an island at the shoal, establishing a so-called “red line”.

At his confirmation hearing the new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington should block Beijing’s access to its artificial islands.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday told AFP that China was “trying to get Scarborough” as part of a strategy to counter US influence in the region.

– Risk of military confrontation? –

China has proved it is willing to use deadly force to back its claims in the South China Sea.

Beijing gained control of the Paracel Islands in 1974 following clashes with the South Vietnamese Navy that left about 50 Vietnamese troops dead.

Vietnam and China fought a naval battle on Johnson Reef in the Spratlys in 1988 that killed about 70 Vietnamese military personnel.

Washington does not want to get into a war with Beijing, but Trump and his cabinet picks have so far issued contradictory statements on the South China Sea.

China Trying To Buy Fishing Rights from The Philippines: Money, Assistance, Technology, Even Training in China

December 3, 2016

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China boasts about the “concrete act of benevolence from China” — But it wants to fish even where it has no legal claim. China’s offer offer was akin to offering “lollipops to children.”

Above: Filipino fishermen after a successful fishing expedition in the South China Sea

In an effort China has previously used to gain access to fishing waters elsewhere in the developing world, China is plying Filipino fishermen with an offer of aquaculture assistance and money to convince  them to abandon contested fishing waters in the South China Sea.

Shortly after the visit to Beijing of Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte in October, the Chinese government dispatched Liu Xinzhong, the vice-head of the Fisheries Bureau at the Department of Agriculture, to meet with the Filipino fishermen.

Presidents Duterte and Xi meet at APEC Summit (Photo: CNN)

Liu brought 14 officials with him on a trip that lasted almost a week. In addition to offering aquaculture technology, training in China and cash, Liu assured the Filipinos fishing at the Scarborough Shoal (known as Bajo de Masindoc in the Philippines) that they would no longer be harassed by Chinese navy vessels.

“We will help improve your incomes…Our governments are working to bury the hatchet, we are like brothers now,” Liu told the fishermen.

News of the detente was not widely reported in China. The only reports of the trip in mainland China emerged via the Philippines-based correspondent of the Chinese government-controlled Global Times newspaper, who quoted from reports in the Philippines-based Inquirer newspaper.

According to Leo Cuaresma, chair of the Federal Fishermen’s Association of Masinloc, Liu’s promises fell short, saying his offer was akin to offering “lollipops to children.” Notably, however, he didn’t say if the offer would be accepted or rejected.

In Global Times coverage of the spat between the Philippines and China, American interference has been blamed for recent tensions.

The recent “concrete act of benevolence from China” to Filipino fishermen may still be ruined by Americans, who “haven’t renounced their plans to upset things,” according to the Global Times. In the same article, an unnamed U.S. defense official was quoted as describing a need for joint U.S.-Filipino patrols of waters around the Scarborough and other parts of the South China Sea.

http://www.seafoodsource.com/news/supply-trade/china-s-trades-cash-technology-for-fishing-access-in-philippines

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U.S. President Elect Donald Trump meeting with japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump Tower, November 17, 2016.

Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal

A Chinese fishing boat catches fires during an inspection by the South Korean coastguard in September. File photo: AP
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Chinese fishing fleet

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid.

China Rescues Filipino Fishermen Near Disputed South China Sea Shoal

December 2, 2016

Reuters

December 2, 2016

MANILA — China’s coastguard rescued two Filipino fishermen from a capsized boat near a disputed South China Sea shoal on Friday, underlining the fast thawing of ties between two countries long at odds over sovereignty.

A Philippine coastguard vessel navigated choppy waters to collect the two fishermen from the Chinese ship, in what would be the first time in four years both countries’ coastguards were in close proximity in the Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcrop at the heart of years of diplomatic tension.

“As we speak, the Chinese vessel is linking up with our own ship to turn over the two Filipino fishermen,” said Philippine coastguard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo.

“It is taking some time because the waters in the area are very rough.”

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the fishermen were in good health and that efforts were continuing to get them on to the Philippine ship.

China “will continue to patrol and keep watch in waters around Huangyan Island and faithfully carry out its responsibilities and mission to safeguard the peace, tranquillity and order in relevant waters”, he said, using the Chinese name for Scarborough Shoal.

The rescue illustrates the rapid changes in the relationship between the two countries under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who in only a few months has sought to turn a historic foe into a friend. He visited Beijing in October and has met twice with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, to whom he has expressed admiration.

The last time coastguards of the two countries were both at the shoal was in June 2012, during a protracted face-off sparked by Philippine attempts to arrest Chinese fishermen.

That led to the Philippines lodging a case with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which infuriated China and put its claims to most of the South China Sea in the international spotlight.

The Philippines won that case in July, with the arbitral award voiding China’s U-shaped line of sovereignty on its maps.

The ruling made clear the Scarborough Shoal was under the jurisdiction of no country and claimants China, the Philippines and Vietnam were entitled to exploit its plentiful fish stocks.

China was until recently overseeing a blockade of the shoal some 124 miles off the Philippines coast, chasing away Filipino fishermen and sometimes blasting them with water cannon.

Duterte has told Xi he will unilaterally turn the shoal into a marine sanctuary, banning fishing within the lagoon and restricting it to the peripherals. It is unclear whether Xi will agree to that and how it would be enforced.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Martin Petty)

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