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Philippine media seems overwhelmed by patriotism, or maybe it was just coincidental. Every time I saw Philippine-China stand-off in the Scarborough, I noticed articles always carried picture of beautiful isle or islet that I think belonged in the Spratlys.
If it is about drumming up public support for the Philippine cause, will it make less if Scarborough is actually only shallow sea and a few jotting rocks?
The Best of Scarborough Shoal. Picture was lifted from Google search: Scarborough shoal.
Ships do not sail through the place. World maritime has established the place as Scarborough Shoal since a sea mishap involving one ship named Scarborough there in the 18th century. The Chinese believe it is the Huangyan Island noted in some old geography by Chinese scholars. Filipinos call the place Panatag Shoal.
Panatag [pa na tag] adj Tagalog, Pilipino: serene, peaceful, calm, steady.
From old Philippine Malay: Panay + Patag – literal, all the same + plain, level land
The best of Scarborough shoal at low tide. Apparently taken later, same rock pictured above, actually having a twin near it. Lifted from Google search: Scarborough shoal
Scarborough is defined as a shoal and not an island nor a group of islands.
shoal [shōl] noun (plural shoals)
1. shallow water: an area of shallow water in a larger body of water
2. underwater sandbank: an underwater sandbank or sandbar that is visible at low water
Microsoft® Encarta® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
No island mass. Just shoal and reef systems reflecting different colors of sea. It gets too shallow in parts so that white ripples resulting as waves roll over the shallows show. Lifted from Google search: Scarborough shoal.
During the time when fishermen did not normally go out more than 5 miles to sea, the place used to be no-man’s land, a hazardous place for ships, some few useless pieces of rocks that jot out of the water especially at low tide – absolutely unlivable to be of interest. If there was something interesting of the place, it must be the danger it has posed to maritime. It would have been no good map if it did not show dangerous places like useless Scarborough shoal.
But that was yesterday. And the world has grown since then. Commercial fishing has become a way of life. The place is irresistibly very rich in marine life. And added to that, there are other prospects the old world had never known before.
Shallow sea is rich in algae and corals as the sea-bed is blessed with, or penetrated by much sunlight. Reef systems are formed. The shoal formation hosts a wide variety and complete chains of marine biology. The place has become an important fishing ground, and later disputed.
Modern day Balangay that fishes in deeper seas, at rest in port with frolickers aboard. Lifted from Google search: Navotas fishport
Scarborough is about two weeks round-trip fishing run from Batangas and Navotas – Metro Manila’s fish-ports. That depends on provisions like food, drinks, ice, and how soon the holds are filled with catch. In deeper seas around the shoal are the big species, omnivores and carnivores, like Yellow Fins.
No, they are not the tuna capital of the Philippines. The tuna capital of the Philippines is Gensan or General Santos that fishes in the Celebes Sea…Celebes Sea! Hey, why don’t some bright guy rename that sea to South Philippine Sea! And while at it, expand the country’s territorial and economic zones farther out south, as well. How? Since Philippine government has claimed Benham Plateau in the east, why cannot it claim a sort of Benham Valley or Benham Hills that lies under what we would then call South Philippine Sea – from what to be formerly Celebes Sea! Nothing tribal, nothing economic, nothing political [ugh, Lol]. No, it is not some Filipinos going crazy, it must be the whole world moving backward. What do you think, folks? 🙂
Meantime, the Scarborough shoal has been claimed by the Republic of the Philippines [Ph], by Republic of China [Taiwan], and by the People’s Republic of China [PRC]. It all started when Filipinos planted the country’s flag in there in the time of President Marcos in the 60s, claiming the place for the Philippines, which drew protests and counter claims.
So, we see all the territorial claims are not new. All them asserted only in the late 20th century are decades old, Scarborough shoal used to be a common fishing ground while disputed. But not anymore.
Scarborough shoal is located in the South China Sea, slightly northeast of the Spratlys. The shoal is only around 130 nautical miles off Zambales, Philippines.
Lifted from Google satellite Maps: Philippines and Scarborough Shoal
Under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS] it falls within the 200 miles Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] of the Philippines. The Philippines is supposed to hold fishing rights in there, or in its parts that are within the EEZ.
[My rough estimate of Scarborough shoal, that one estimate has put at 130 square kilometers in area, is 125 nautical miles on center [OC] to baseline Zambales. Nautical mile x 1.852 = km]
With ownership there comes right[s]. Rights can come with or without ownership. The rights of the Philippines over the shoal under the EEZ has been complicated by issue of ownership. Issues of territorial ownership and sovereign rights have now apparently put them into limbo. And the situation can hang in there indefinitely.
Obviously, the shoal has to be cleared of any claim of ownership, for EEZ to become the guiding authority. I think the Philippines and PRC are locked in an impasse over the Scarborough.
For the Filipinos, territorial sovereignty over the Scarborough shoal will mean expanding more into the South China Sea that they have already renamed “West Philippine Sea.” I guess the Chinese simply cannot allow that. I don’t think others in the region welcome Philippine position, either. Not with the loss, more than they should, of common fishing ground it means for them. There are oil deposits in the region. Most of all, in the region are very critical international sea lanes.
The Chinese have re-asserted their claim of ownership of the shoal. Whereas before, their fishermen were arrested by Philippine authorities for fishing there, lately they have positioned naval forces that prevented that from happening. This time they seem to be more meaningful, more resolute, of where their mouth is, or maybe one of these days they might.
And why did not the world put the EEZ at 300 or 350 nautical miles from baseline. That might have contained people who see 200 miles as not enough, thus minimizing the possibility of wars. Haaaah… 😦
Filed under: Environment, Nationalism, Politics, World Geography | Tagged: Economics, Environment, History, Politics, War | 6 Comments »