Philippines’ Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Junior said on Tuesday the government had filed a diplomatic protest after Filipino fishermen reported that Chinese vessels were “mass harvesting giant clams” from the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
“We just caught them doing that recently, filed a diplomatic note, and will be taking legal action,” said Locsin in a tweet. “With our legal department now.”
Locsin told CNN Philippines in an interview that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) “took the substance” of a related report by the national task force on the West Philippine Sea. He said this report “is verified by us”.
“We protest this. This is illegal, and in fact you are also violating conventions on environmental protection, for which we can take legal action,” said Locsin.
Scarborough Shoal – also known to the Chinese as Huangyan Dao or Democracy Reef – is located 230 kilometres from the Philippines’ northwestern coast.
The shoal was the site of a standoff between Philippine and Chinese government ships in April 2012. China later took control of the area, often chasing away Filipino fishermen.
The incident prompted Manila to file an arbitration case against China in January 2013, questioning Beijing’s sweeping claims to the disputed sea.
In July 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled Beijing has no legal or historical basis to its claim over the South China Sea, a key shipping lane believed to be rich in mineral and marine resources, which are also claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.