'PH fishers spot pipe installation in the middle of Scarborough'
China’s ‘underwater system’ seen

PH fishers spot pipe installation ‘in middle of’ Scarborough – NGO

/ 11:59 AM May 17, 2024

PH fishers spot pipe installation off Scarborough – 'Atin Ito' leader

FILE PHOTO: Filipino fisherfolk saw a pipe installation in waters near the Scarborough Shoal, according to a team leader of an NGO that initiated a civilian mission in the West Philippine Seal. This file photo shows the Scarborough Shoal, which is also known as Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc. INQUIRER FILES

SUBIC, Zambales — Filipino fisherfolk saw a pipe installation “in the middle of” the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in a development that could be part of a system which may enable China to maneuver underwater without being seen.

Mark Figueras, team leader of the “Atin Ito” convoy’s advance boat, said fishers could go 50 to 100 meters close to Panatag Shoal before this suspected construction “inside” the low-tide elevation, which began last month.


READ: Scarborough Shoal civilian convoy safely returns to Subic, Zambales


“Now, they have been kicked out, they are no longer allowed there because there has been an activity inside,” Figueras said in a press conference here Friday.

“Somebody is already guarding there because there are pipes being laid out in the middle of Bajo de Masinloc,” he added.

READ: China radio challenge started as Scarborough convoy sails into sea

Underwater system

Chester Cabalza, president and founder of Manila-based think tank International Development and Security Cooperation, said the spotted pipe-laying inside the shoal roughly similar to the size of Quezon City could be part of an “underwater system.”

“Underwater system is possible at the Scarborough Shoal … where they park some of their vessels and maritime militia boats,” Cabalza told INQUIRER.net.


Asked what the purpose of such a development could be, Cabalza said, “They may build some underwater channels direct to mainland Zambales via Masinloc.”

“Using Chinese technology that builds the fastest underwater systems, it provides them the advantage to maneuver underwater that is not seen by bare eyes,” he added.

Fishers ‘driven away like animals’

China seized control of Scarborough Shoal’s lagoon in 2012 after its coast guard’s standoff with Philippine vessels.

Their actions align with Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty in almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, even if such a claim has been effectively invalidated by a July 2016 international tribunal ruling from a case filed by Manila in 2013.

The Atin Ito coalition initiated a civilian mission for the fisherfolk in the shoal to assert the country’s sovereign rights there.

Atin Ito’s forward boat MV Franz Gavin was able to reach relatively near but still outside the “red line” or the 12 nautical mile territorial waters of Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, during the group’s mission on Thursday, May 16.

Figueras’ MV Franz Gavin reached 25-30 miles off the Panatag Shoal to give fisherfolk their fuel and food packs.

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On Wednesday, a fisherman recently returning from Scarborough Shoal told INQUIRER.net that fishers going to Scarborough Shoal were “being driven away like animals.”

You don’t get threatened with fists but with guns,” JR Sarmiento Hilig, 37, said in Filipino, adding that this encounter happened on Monday, May 13, while they were taking shelter near the sand bank.

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TAGS: Atin Ito, Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, West Philippine Sea

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