French Scientists harassed by Chinese Patrol in Panatag Shoal – Philippines Territory

A week long standoff between the Philippines and China in the Philippines territory of the Panatag / Scarborough Shoal continue to escalate as China tighten their naval presence and invasion in the Philippines territory that hit not just Filipinos but also France Nationals-Scientist  who are conducting a research in the area with approval from the Philippine government.

Filipino Nationalism continues to rise and calling China as "bastos" or immodest, unfair, un-respectful and arrogant of their power.

China recently detained Vietnamese fishermen who seeks for shelter during the storm in the Paracel Islands's Viet Nam's 200 nautical Miles Exclusive Economic Zone and call Vietnam to stop poaching in the territory which is under control by china's government.

The poaching of Chinese fishermen is a strategy to challenge the Philippine capability to fight with China's might resulting to a continued standoff in the Panatag Scarborough Shoal west of Zambales Province Philippines.

Even small, even weak, and even poorly equipped, Philippines flex its might to defend its territory will calling the united front from the ASEAN countries to create one voice to end the standoff.

It wasn't mere fish poaching that sparked the near clash between armed Chinese and Philippine ships in Scarborough Shoal last week. Two Chinese maritime surveillance vessels popped up on scene to shield the poaching lancha just as a Philippine Navy cutter was accosting them. This showed they were just in the vicinity of the shoal, trespassing Philippine waters like their fish-rustling compatriots. A third Chinese fisheries enforcement craft arrived to reinforce the two. It was not bent on enforcing international bans on harvesting live shark, giant clams, and corals found on the poaching boats. Then, while diplomatic talks were ongoing to diffuse the tension, one of the Chinese ships harassed and a patrol plane buzzed a Filipino research craft with French scientists onboard.

China's aim is apparent. Its patrols were acting as advance scouts for its People's Liberation Army-Navy. Under pretext of innocent fishing, China is out to grab Scarborough Shoal, just like it did to Mischief Reef in 1995.

Manila cannot ignore the disquieting pattern. Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef are not part of the Spratly Islands disputed by the two countries. Both lie within the Philippines' 200- nautical miles exclusive economic zone, far beyond China's, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

For decades Mischief had been a rest stop of Filipino fishing craft from Malabon-Navotas and Zamboanga. It is 130 miles off Palawan, and more than 900 miles from China's closest island-province of Hainan. Allowed in the spirit of amity, Chinese fishers occasionally sought shelter there. During the monsoons of 1994, when Philippine naval patrols were off, China put up several stilt huts. Claiming these were innocent storm shelters for fishermen of both sides, China ignored Manila's protests. The following year China erected concrete structures, followed by communications towers, satellite dishes, helipads, and cannons. From then on, Philippine military and civilian craft were forbidden from approaching.

Soon after grabbing Mischief, China dropped buoys around Sabina Shoal, closer to Palawan, (70 miles). The Philippines confiscated these.

China then trained its eyes on Scarborough, 120 miles west of Luzon, but nearly 800 miles from Hong Kong, China's closest point. Recorded in the Spanish times as Masinloc Baja, after the jurisdictional Zambales town, Scarborough too is a fishermen's rest stop. Secured by warships, Chinese sailors attempted to build bunkhouses and plant markers around the 15,000-hectare lagoon. The Philippines beached a gunboat on the sandbar to signal readiness for protracted siege. The squatters from across the South China Sea retreated.

On routine patrol last Holy Week 2012 the Philippine Navy flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar spotted eight Hainan-type launches inside the lagoon. Boarding from motorized rubber boats, Filipino Seals videoed the poached contraband. Then came three Chinese interloping ships from its bureaus of maritime surveillance and fisheries enforcement. With three other "civilian" agencies — coast guard, Customs, and maritime safety — the vessels of the "five dragons stirring up the seas" are well armed. Its coast guard alone has 86 patrol craft, all equipped with medium-range anti-ship cruise missiles.

The grey Philippine naval vessel may have looked inapt confronting white Chinese civil government craft, but the latter were as ready for sea battle. Beijing cried that the fishing craft had merely sought shelter from a storm in the shoal. Smartly Manila withdrew the del Pilar from the standoff to keep a "grey to grey, white to white" stance. Dispatched to the area was the Philippine Coast Guard's BRP Pampanga to treat the poaching as a police matter. Still, in light of China's past and continuing aggressions, Manila should keep the Navy on standby against any overt Chinese effort to occupy Scarborough. In recent months, China has harassed seismic research and fishing craft in the oil-rich Reed Bank 80 miles off Palawan. It planted markers in nearby Boxall Reef, Jackson Atoll, and again Sabina Shoal.

China claims ownership of Scarborough, Mischief, Sabina, Reed, Boxall, and Jackson by virtue of having Chinese names in unverified "ancient maps." But there are also Filipino names respectively for the six areas explored by the British Admiralty in the 1700s-1800s. These are Panatag Shoal, Panganiban Reef, Escoda Shoal, Recto Bank, Rajah Soliman Reef, and Quirino Atoll. Seismological maps of the University of London show these — and the Spratlys — to be within the Philippine continental shelf.

In 2011, China spend all effort to buy all antique map around the world that named the Philippines islands in different name as China's locally coined name to assert its claim in the Philippines territory.

Inspite of their effort, the Philippines are not be bothered but relied the United Nations to intervene the China's aggression and insisted that the disputed triggered by china in invading the Philippines territory must be resolve by the UNCLOS.

United Nations has been silent and never reacts of the recent disputes in the Seas of the South East Asia and not even shows its strength to implement the United Nations convention on laws of Seas.

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