West Philippine Sea 101: Scarborough Shoal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A chunk of rock appearing on the ocean surface has now become the source of tension between the Philippines and China.

Scarborough Shoal — or to what Philippines refers to as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc — is one of the crucial disputed land formations between the two countries. It lies about 118 nautical miles west of Zambales province and within the Philippines’ 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as specified by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In April 2012 a Philippine warship tried to arrest Chinese fishermen, whose presence in the shoal was illegal.

The Chinese Coast Guard intervened, resulting in a standoff that went on for months.

China says it has owned Scarborough for centuries, based on what it calls its historical rights to the area.

But the oldest known map of the Philippines — the Velarde-Murillo Map of 1734 — shows Panatag Shoal, then called Panacot Shoal, as part of “Las Islas Filipinas” or the Philippine islands which were then administered by Spanish colonizers.

The 2012 standoff ended only after Manila and Beijing agreed to pull out.

But China did not stop. It sent its patrol ships back and eventually closed off the shoal to Filipinos.

The move would set in motion the Philippine maritime case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Bu no one knows the gravity of the situation like the fisherfolk of Masinloc. Their only source of livelihood has been the shoal for as long as they can remember.

And now they have been restricted to the area, they’re losing 300 thousand pesos a week.