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Video: Chinese Forces Harass Philippine Fishermen at Scarborough Shoal

In this 2023 file image, Chinese forces at Scarborough Shoal deploy a barrier (PCG)
In this 2023 file image, Chinese forces at Scarborough Shoal deploy a barrier (PCG)

Published Jan 21, 2024 3:34 PM by The Maritime Executive

Chinese forces routinely interfere with the operations of Philippine fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, a reef in the Philippine EEZ that has been occupied by China for years. In the latest alleged provocation, Chinese forces reportedly instructed fishermen from Zambales to put back sea shells that they had been collecting from the coral reef. 

On Saturday, fisherman Jack Tabat told the Philippine Coast Guard that his crew had been working on collecting shells from the reef structure when a rubber boat carrying five China Coast Guard servicemembers approached. Four of the coastguardsmen disembarked to chase fishermen on the reef, while another held on to the fishermens' boat to keep them from running off. 

The Chinese servicemembers demanded that the Philippine fishermen return their shells to the water before they could leave. 

In a statement, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. Jay Tariella said that the service had recorded Tabat's testimony and was awaiting the return of the boat to interview the other fishermen. He said that the service has verified the origin of the video of the run-in. 

  

If verified, it would be far from the first time that Chinese forces have harassed Philippine fishermen at the reef. Last year, the China Coast Guard strung a rope line across the reef's sole entrance in order to keep Philippine vessels out of the lagoon.  The event was covered widely in the Philippine press, and it drew condemnation from elected officials. (PCG divers eventually swam out and cut the line in an act of protest.) 

The site has been a flash point since 2012, when the Philippine Coast Guard attempted to halt a Chinese illegal-fishing operation near the reef. The conflict escalated into a minor trade war; at the reef, the China Coast Guard set up a semipermanent blockade to bar Philippine fishermen from the area.