China blocks Filipino fishing boats

President Rodrigo Duterte’s meeting with Peter Lim. Source: YouTube

The Chinese coastguard is apparently preventing fishing boats from the Philippines reaching the contested Scarborough Shoal, Manila says, suggesting China is ignoring last week’s international court ruling dismissing its claims to the South China Sea’s reefs.

The islands, 124 nautical miles northwest of the Philippine mainland, were one of Manila’s main reasons for bringing international legal action against Beijing in 2013.

The navy and fishermen in the Philippine province of Pangasinan said China’s coastguard remained at Scarborough and were still preventing fishing in the lagoon.

An ABS-CBN television crew joined a fishing crew to reach the shoal and showed Chinese coastguard officers in a dinghy approaching the Filipino boat and using a megaphone to make them leave.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled last Tuesday ruled that because it has rocky outcrops above high tide, Scarborough Shoal was entitled to 12 miles of territorial sea, although it did not rule on who owned it.

The court said China had “unlawfully prevented” Filipino fishermen from operating there after seizing the Scarboroughs in 2012.

Chinese vessels have been accused of chasing, ramming or blasting with water cannon Philippine fishing boats.

China refused to participate in the hearing and foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the decision would have no effect on Beijing’s South China Sea policy.

How the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte will react to the ruling remains unclear.

Duterte appears preoccupied with his war on drugs and on Friday he met a businessman he accuses of being one of the Philippines’ main drug bosses and threatened to kill him to his face.

Video of the meeting was released by the government and showed the president warning Peter Lim to steer clear of drugs.

“I will execute you … I will finish you off,” Duterte said during the meeting.

A government YouTube channel said Lim was “one of the top drug lords in the triad involved in illegal drug operations in the country”.

The businessman denied that he was the alleged Chinese-Filipino drug dealer Peter Lim, who was mentioned by Duterte in an address on July 7.

Lim said that since the speech, in which the 71-year-old former mayor said “the moment he steps out of the plane, he will die”, he has feared for his life.

“My family is really in a deep problem now in Cebu. We are getting all the threats,” Lim said. He runs several businesses in the central city.

Peter Lim is a common name in the Philippines, where a proportion of the population is ethnically Chinese.