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Scarborough Shoal, Scarborough Reef, or Panatag Shoal (Philippinemarker name: Panatag Shoal; Chinese name: 黃岩島 Huangyan Dao), more correctly described as a group of islands and reefs in an atoll shape than a shoal, is located between the Macclesfield Bankmarker and Luzonmarker, Philippinesmarker in the South China Seamarker. As with most of the landforms in this sea, the sovereignty of the area is disputed. Most references exclude this atoll from inclusion in the Spratly Islandsmarker, of which the closest is 350 km to the southwest.


The shoal forms a triangle shaped chain of reefs and islands (but mostly rocks) around with an of area 150 square kilometers. It has a lagoon with area of 130 km² and depth of about . Several of the islands including "South Rock" are 1/2m to 3m high and many of the reefs are just below water at high tide. Near the mouth of the lagoon are the ruins of an iron tower, 8.3m high.

The shoal is a protrusion in a 3,500m deep abyssal plain. The nearest landmass is Palauigmarker, Zambalesmarker, on Luzonmarker Island in the Philippinesmarker, away. It is about west of Subic Baymarker.

Economy & Tourism

Fishermen from different countries operate in the area. A number of Chinese fishermen have been arrested by Philippine officials in this area with charges of illegal methods of fishing that destroy the marine habitat of the reef and catching of endangered marine species. Thick layers of guano lie on the rocks in the area. Several Chinese diving excursions (1998) and amateur radio DXpeditions (1994, 1995, 1997 and 2007) were done within Scarborough Shoal.

Sovereignty dispute

The Philippinesmarker, the People's Republic of Chinamarker, and the Republic of Chinamarker (Taiwanmarker) all claim Scarborough Shoal.

The Philippine Navy has long been vigilant in the Scarborough Shoal for any suspicious or possible economic activity acted by the other claimants. The Philippines base their claim on its proximity and the principle of terra nullius, which holds that it was previously unclaimed by a sovereign state, which is also applied by the Philippinesmarker in its claims to the Spratly Islands.

On the other hand, the Chinese and the Taiwanese bases for claims are that the shoal was first mapped in the Yuan Dynastymarker as early as 1279 and was historically used by Chinese fishermen.

The Chinese side states that the territorial claim by the Philippine government is new. Treaties about the territory of the Philippines and Philippine constitution in 1935 and maritime claims in 1961 state that the westernmost line of the Philippine territory is 118 East longitude, and the shoal is situated on the western side of the line. Also, some maps published before 1990 did not include the shoal as the territory of the Philippines.


1279 Guo Shoujing, Chinese astronomer, performed surveying of the South China Sea for Kublai Khan. The surveying point was reported to be Scarborough Shoal.
1500s Historical reports said that as early as the Spanish era, Filipinos are already using the area for fishing and shelter for fishermen during bad weather.
1935 Chinamarker regarded Scarborough Shoal as part of Zhongsha Islandsmarker
1947 China published a map drawing a line of claim across South China Sea, Scarborough Shoal is included. The claims were administered in Hainan province.
1957 The Philippinesmarker conducted an oceanographic survey of the shoal. The Philippines together with the US Navy, used it as an impact range for defense purposes.
1965 The Philippines constructed an 8.3 meter high flag pole and raised the Philippine flag in the shoal. It was reported that a small lighthouse was built and operated.
1970 China sent a scientific expedition to the shoal.
1978 The Philippines claimed an Exclusive Economic Zone , up to 200nm from the baselines from which their territorial sea is measured, by Presidential Decree No.1599 in June 1978, including the Scarborough Shoal.
1990 China sent a contingent to the shoal and cemented a "survey marker" dated March 31, 1990.
1992 The Philippine Navy rehabilitated the lighthouse and reported it to the International Maritime Organization for publication in the List of Lights.
1995 China further asserted its claim after the US Navy left Subic Base in Zambales in 1990. American Radio Relay League agreed to award Scarborough Shoal a DXCC code of BS7H. B stands for China.
1997 The Philippines again officially expressed its claim to Scarborough Shoal. The Philippine flag was re-hoisted. DENR and the University of the Philippines conducted scientific, topographic and marine studies in the shoal.
1998 Bilateral clashes, chases and arrests of several Chinese fisherman by the Philippine Navy took place. BRP Benguet went aground, but removed the same year.
2009 The Office of the Philippine President enacted the "Philippine Baselines Law of 2009" (RA 9522). The new law classifies the Kalayaan Island Group and the Scarborough Shoal as a "regime of islands under the Republic of the Philippines." This means that the Philippines continues to lay claim over the disputed islands.

See also

Sources and references

  1. What’s become of the MMDA?, Philippine Star, 2 April 2008
  2. [1]
  3. Philippine Baselines Law of 2009 signed:

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