The Scarborough Shoal and its surrounding area are rich in fishing grounds. In 1998 to 2001 a significant number of Chinese fishermen have been arrested for illegal methods of fishing and catching endangered protected species. In latest news, another Chinese fisherman has caught by the Philippine National Navy because of the catching endangered protected species.
The shoal was named after the east India company tea trade ship Scarborough which was wrecked on one of its rocks with everyone perishing on board on 12 September 1784. The shoal forms a triangle shaped chain of reefs and rocks or very Small Island 55 kilometers in circumference with a total area including shallow water areas of 150 square kilometers.
The shoal is a rich fishing ground that some nations claim the island. One of them is the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan and also our own country the Philippines. Peoples Republic of China claim that Chinese people discovered the shoal centuries ago and that there is a long history of Chinese fishing activity in the area. The shoal also lies within the nine dotted lines drawn by china on maps marking its claim to around two-thirds of the total area of the South China Sea. In the 1935 the Chinese government at that time republic of china, regarded the shoal as a part of the Zhongsha Island. China reaffirmed its claim of sovereignty over the Zhongsha Island in its 1992 Law on the territorial Sea and the contiguous zone. China claims all the island,reefs,and shoal within a U shaped line in the south china sea drawn in 1947 as its territory. Scarborough Shoal lies within this area.
On the other hand, Philippines claim that as early as the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, Filipino fishermen were already using the area as a traditional fishing grounds and shelter during the bad weather. In1957 the Philippines government conducted an oceanographic survey of the area together with the US navy forced based Subic Bay in Zambales used the area as an impact ranged for defense purposes. An 8.3 meter high flagpole flying a Philippine flag was raised in 1965. A small lighthouse was also built and operated the same year. By virtue of the Presidential decree no 1599 issued by the president Ferdinand Marcos on June 1978, the Philippines claims an exclusive economic zone up to 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which their territorial sea is measured.
In 2009 president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo enacted the Philippine baselines law of 2009. The new law classifies the spratly island and the Scarborough shoal as a regime as a regime of islands under the republic of the Philippines. The Philippine government has proposed taking dispute to the international tribunal for the law of the sea (ITLOS) as provided in Part XV of the United Nations Convention on The Law of the Sea, but the Chinese government has rejected this insisting on bilateral discussion.
The latest news about the stand off between the two claiming countries, the Philippine Navy has pull out the patrolling ship around the shoal after an agreement with the Chinese government that they likewise do the same. However, the Chinese embassy denied that such agreement was reached.
It is therefore concluded that the only way to solve the dispute is to bring the case to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) thought the Republic of China discourage such actions. The pullout of navy ships by the Philippine government can be seen that it weakens the claim of the country in the shoal, should there be a new “agreement” between the two country’s a third party or negotiator should also seat to “cement” deals on the said matter.