MANILA — A Philippine Navy surveillance aircraft monitored last Sunday (April 8) eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored inside the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the course of its enforcement of the Philippine Fisheries Code and marine environment protection laws, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced today (April 11).
The Philippines maintains that Panatag Shoal is an integral part of its territory. The Shoal is 124 nautical miles from the nearest basepoint in Zambales Province. It is within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf.
To protect the marine environment and resources in the Panatag Shoal and to assert Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights over the area as a responsible coastal state, the Navy deployed the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) from Palawan to Northern Luzon waters last April 8 to conduct maritime patrol over the Shoal.
In the course of its patrol, BRP Gregorio del Pilar confirmed the presence of the eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored inside the lagoon of the Shoal. The Navy vessel remained in the vicinity of the Shoal for continuous monitoring of the fishing vessels.
Last Tuesday morning, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, in accordance with the established Rules of Engagement, dispatched a boarding team to inspect the fishing vessels and collect photos and other evidence of their catch. The inspection team reported that large amounts of illegally collected corals, giant clams and live sharks were found inside the compartments of the first fishing vessel that was boarded by the Navy team.
The BRP Gregorio del Pilar later reported that two Chinese maritime surveillance ships identified as Zhonggou Haijian 75 and Zhonggou Haijian 84 managed to sail at the mouth of the Shoal, placing themselves between the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and the eight Chinese fishing vessels, thus preventing the arrest of the erring Chinese fishermen.
This situation has remained unchanged as of Wednesday (April 11).
To seek a diplomatic solution, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario communicated to Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing Tuesday evening (April 10) that the Panatag Shoal is an integral part of Philippine territory and the PN is enforcing Philippine laws on the Shoal, which is within the Philippine EEZ and Continental Shelf.
Furthermore, Secretary del Rosario has invited Ambassador Ma to the DFA this morning for further discussion of this issue.