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Image shows Chinese vessel blocking access to Panatag Shoal

Filipino fishermen are still unable to fish inside the lagoon of Panatag (Scarborough Shoal), despite earlier reports of unimpeded access from the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG), according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI).

"Despite earlier reports, it appears that Filipino fishermen are still not fishing inside Scarborough Shoal," AMTI said, citing an October 29 satellite image.

It said the image showed that a China Coast Guard vessel is anchored "just inside the mouth of the lagoon, where it has been for most of the period since China seized the shoal in 2012, apparently blocking access."

AMTI said while at least 17 Filipino fishing vessels were present along the exterior of the shoal's reef, two Chinese civilian ships were also within the vicinity.

The photo was taken days after President Rodrigo Duterte made a four-day state visit to China where he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to strengthen the two countries' cooperation in the field of fisheries.

Malacañang also confirmed that Chinese Coast Guard vessels are no longer preventing Filipino fishermen from going near Scarborough Shoal.

China seized control of the shoal—a U-shaped rock formation with a sprawling lagoon teeming with rich maritime resources—in 2012 following a maritime standoff with Philippine authorities.

Philippine officials insisted the shoal, which is facing the South China Sea, is within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an agreement signed by 163 nations, including China.

Scarborough, located 124 nautical miles from Masinloc town in Zambales and 472 nautical miles from China’s nearest coastal province of Hainan, is called Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc by the Philippines and referred to as Huangyan Island by the Chinese. —Joseph Tristan Roxas/KBK, GMA News

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