Chinese Coast Guard blocks Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal

(originally published: 2021/05/27)

The Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) has again cordoned off Scarborough Shoal, stopping Filipino fishermen from entering one of their traditional fishing grounds. Scarborough Shoal, which is also called Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc, is well within the country’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

In late April and early May, two groups of fishermen from Infanta town in  Pangasinan province, were driven away by the CCG as they approached the entrance to the lagoon inside the shoal.

Other Chinese vessels also were blocking the entrance to the shoal.


Chinese vessels blocking the entrance to Scarborough Shoal. The group of ships in the right picture had come from the waters off Palawan province.

Several coast guard men were deployed on a small rubber boat from the CCG ship 3305, which headed toward the Filipinos’ fishing boats.

Using a megaphone, the Chinese told the Filipino fishermen: “No fishing! No Fishing! Go! Go! Go!”


Rubber boat deployed at the rear of Chinese Coast Guard ship 3305, one several that frequently patrol the Scarborough Shoal

The Filipinos were able to fish in the waters away from the shoal but hauled in only a relatively small catch. They say that when the CCG ship was some distance away, they returned near the shoal to continue fishing.

They were like playing a cat-and-mouse game with the Chinese, but with serious economic consequences on them. “We were like stealing from our own backyard,” one of them said.

Other fishermen who see the CCG action against fellow Filipinos just entirely avoid any confrontation and sail away.

After a week out at sea, the Infanta fishermen returned home with only a smaller haul than what they had prepared for.

Their cargo of ice for preserving fish ended up more than what they were able to catch. As their ice was melting away, it no longer made economic sense to linger to get more fish.

In their search for other spots to fish within the country’s 200-nautimal mile EEZ, the fishermen came upon a large buoy with Chinese markings. Based on their GPS reading (16.00 117.18), the buoy was about 165 nautical miles west of Pangasinan.

On the map, it is located about 58 kilometers north-northwest of Scarborough Shoal.


Buoy with Chinese markings north-northwest of Scarborough Shoal.

According to a news report, a large steel marker and hundreds of buoys were discovered in 2015 by the Philippine military in waters near the Reed (Recto) Bank, where the Philippines has been exploring for oil and gas.

In January this year, a similar yellow but larger floating marker was added by China to a “marine surveillance network used partly to strengthen the country’s territorial claims in the disputed East China Sea” where it has overlapping claims with Japan and South Korea, according to the South China Morning Post.

The Filipino fishermen also identified other “CCG ships” which did not have official coast guard markings but were seen involved in blocking or stopping Filipino fishermen headed to Scarborough Shoal.


Another Chinese “coast guard” vessel identified by fishermen.