Might still rules over right in Scarborough Shoal

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 15 2016 06:38 PM

Fishermen in the coastal town of Masinloc in Zambales are coming to terms with the reality that the arbitration victory of the Philippines against China over the disputed West Philippine Sea will remain on paper for now.

In the wake of the arbitral tribunal's ruling that China violated Filipino fishermen's rights by blocking their access to Scarborough Shoal off Zambales, Filipino fishermen proceeded to the rich fishing ground on Thursday.

However, the fishermen were again barred by Chinese coast guards from proceeding to Scarborough.

"They are saddened by what happened,'' Masinloc Mayor Arsenia Lim told ANC.

Despite the arbitration victory and in the face of Beijing's defiance, both the national and local governments in the Philippines still have no definite solution to the continued Chinese intimidation of Filipino fishermen.

''We still are saying that the fishermen are not prevented [from going to Scarborough]. However, they are cautioned to proceed with care,'' said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

Lim said the local government may help the fishermen shift their livelihood to farming.

She said some 700 families have been affected by the Chinese blockade, which began in 2012.

Lim said, for now, fishermen may again have to wait until the Chinese and Philippine governments reach a deal, even as China insists that it will only hold direct talks with the Philippine government if the latter abandons the tribunal's ruling.

In the meantime, Lim said she is advising her constituents not to sail to Scarborough to prevent yet another incident with the Chinese.

''This is a big challenge for the fishermen. My constituents are patient and they know that these negotiations will take a long time,'' Lim said.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration earlier this week ruled that China's massive claim to South China Sea has no legal basis, dealing a blow to Beijing's maritime ambition.

Despite the setback, China vowed to ignore what it describes as an ''illegal'' decision by the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal.

One of the key findings of the tribunal is that Scarborough Shoal has been a traditional fishing ground not only of Filipinos, but by fishermen of other nationalities as well.

The tribunal said by blocking Filipino fishermen's access to Scarborough, China violated the Philippines' sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone.