Chinese coast guard accused of taking Filipino fishermens' catch in Scarborough Shoal

Filipino fishermen eat a meal aboard a fishing boat overlooking Chinese fishing vessels at the disputed Scarborough Shoal on April 6, 2017.
Filipino fishermen eat a meal aboard a fishing boat overlooking Chinese fishing vessels at the disputed Scarborough Shoal on April 6, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Members of China's coast guard have been accused of taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

A mobile phone video, aired on Philippine television network GMA-7, showed China Coast Guard (CCG) officers boarding the boats of Filipino fishermen. The shoal is known as Huangyan Island in China.

In the Reporter's Notebook documentary, the officers also approached the fishermen to ask for fish but the fishermen said they have not caught any.

"They will go over our catch. They will get whatever they like and put it in a plastic. They will even get the good ones," said fisherman Ernie Egana.

Philippine maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal said the CCG's actions show the extent of China's control over the territory.

Lyle Morris, security analyst at US-based RAND Corporation, described the incident as "hooliganism at sea."

"CCG officers not even in uniform, but wearing green t-shirts. This is not only unprofessional, it's hooliganism at sea," Morris said on Twitter.

Scarborough Shoal is a rich fishing ground - 142 nautical miles off the Philippines' Zambales province - that China seized after a two-month standoff with the Philippine Navy in 2012. The shoal is also claimed by Taiwan.

Filipino fishermen were able to return to Scarborough Shoal in 2017. The Duterte administration claimed its warmer ties with China have allowed the return of Filipino fishermen there.

An arbitral tribunal in The Hague in 2016 ruled that fishermen from different states have traditional fishing rights there, and that China had interfered with these rights in restricting access.

Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said he has asked for an authentication of the video but initially described it as "inconclusive."