March 29, 2022
MANILA — Scarborough Shoal is China’s “inherent territory” and the Philippines should “avoid interfering” with its patrols in the area, Wang Wengbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in a regular media briefing on Monday.
That was Wang’s reaction when asked about a report of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that a ship of the China Coast Guard performed a dangerous “close distance maneuvering” in the area.
Using the Chinese name for the shoal, Wang said: “Huangyan Dao is China’s inherent territory. China has sovereignty over Huangyan Dao and its adjacent waters as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction over relevant waters.”
“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,” he added.
A transcript of the media conference was uploaded on the website of China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Over the weekend, the PCG reported that a China Coast Guard ship conducted a “close distance maneuvering” towards BRP Malabrigo, a PCG ship that was sailing in the waters off Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc (both are Philippine names for Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea.
The PCG said the incident was a “clear violation” of the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
It was the fourth time a PCG vessel had a close encounter with the China Coast Guard at Scarborough Shoal, according to the PCG commandant, Vice Adm. Artemio Abu.
The first one was reported in May 2021 and the second and third ones happened in June 2021.
The Philippines and China have been locked in a long-standing maritime dispute.
In 2013, the Philippines filed a case with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague in the Netherlands challenging China’s sweeping claim of nearly the entire South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea.
In July 2016, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines, invalidating China’s nine-dash line claim.
Beijing has repeatedly refused to recognize the ruling.