What Went Before: Panatag Shoal standoff
• April 8, 2012 – A Philippine Navy surveillance plane finds eight Chinese fishing boats anchored inside the lagoon of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which is located 220 kilometers west of Zambales province, well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
• April 10, 2012 – A boarding team from BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15), the Philippine Navy’s largest warship, inspects one of the Chinese fishing vessels and finds large amounts of illegally collected corals, giant clams and live sharks. Two Chinese maritime surveillance ships enter the mouth of the shoal and position itself between the Chinese boats and PF-15, blocking the arrest of the Chinese fishermen.
• April 20, 2012 – Chinese media reports that Beijing sent its most advanced fishing patrol vessel to protect its fishermen in the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratlys) after then Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario proposed to take the Panatag dispute to the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The proposal was rejected by the Chinese, who insisted on settling the issue “through friendly consultations so as not to complicate or aggravate the incident.”• June 17, 2012 – A Philippine Coast Guard patrol vessel and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources survey ship leave Panatag Shoal on orders of then President Benigno Aquino III, citing bad weather as Typhoon “Buchoy” (international name: Guchol) approaches Luzon from Eastern Samar. A day before the two Philippine vessels were ordered to leave, China had about seven government ships outside the shoal’s lagoon and 20 to 26 fishing boats in the lagoon.
• Jan. 22, 2013 – The two-month standoff prompts the Philippine government to file an arbitration case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to challenge the so-called nine-dash line that China uses to claim nearly the entire South China Sea.
• July 12, 2016 – The international arbitral tribunal rules that the Philippines has exclusive rights over the West Philippine Sea and that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic title over the South China Sea. The ruling also says that China violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines with its actions in the strategic waterway.• Dec. 17, 2016 – President Duterte says that the Philippines will not insist that China recognize the ruling that invalidates its sweeping claims to the South China Sea. “In the play of politics now, I will set aside the arbitral ruling… I will not impose anything on China. Why? Because the politics here in Southeast Asia is changing,” Duterte says after coming home from state visits to Cambodia and Singapore.
• April 16, 2019 – Del Rosario says for the first time that the United States brokered talks to end the standoff in 2012, but that the Philippines mistakenly believed that China would keep its word and simultaneously pull its ships out from Panatag Shoal. Beijing later denied the existence of such agreement, the former foreign secretary says. “During the impasse at Scarborough Shoal with China in 2012, we were approached by the US, an honest broker for both China and the Philippines, to agree to a simultaneous withdrawal of ships from the shoal. China had over 30 ships while the Philippines had a total of one ship,” Del Rosario says in a statement.
“We ultimately agreed to the US proposal. At the appointed time, we withdrew, whereas China—acting with duplicity—did not. When confronted with the nonwithdrawal of their ships, Beijing’s response was a denial of the existence of such an agreement,” Del Rosario adds.
—Kathleen de Villa, Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives, pca-cpa.org, Inquirer.net
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.