søndag 28. juli 2019

For years, Beijing has been controlling islands, reefs and atolls in the South China Sea. And one Philippine fisherman has started fighting back

Two days before his friends ask the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate the Chinese president, Tolomeo Forones glides a wooden trawler out of the port of the fishing town Masinloc into the South China Sea. His destination: the Scarborough Shoal, a largely sunken atoll called Panatag by the Philippines, and Huangyan Dao by the Chinese. Forones only calls it “my reef”.

Forones, 65, a scrawny man, his white hair combed straight up, his teeth brown from tobacco, fished at Scarborough Shoal for 20 years – like generations of Filipino fishermen before him. But now every voyage is a risk: China claims the reef for itself. The People’s Republic wants to extend its supremacy in the region, and men like Forones get in the way.

The trawler sails 14 hours westward, 120 nautical miles at a constant eight knots, until the first patrol ships of the Chinese coast guard emerge in the light of the rising sun. “There is the entrance to the lagoon. But inside the reef they won’t let us fish anymore,” says Forones, pointing to a shallow in the sea. He counts nine Chinese ships that have positioned themselves around the Shoal.