Key Facts about Scarborough Shoal

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The Philippines recently challenged China to open Scarborough Shoal to international scrutiny after it accused Beijing of destroying the shoal's marine environment.

About Scarborough Shoal:

  • The Scarborough Shoal (also known in English as the Scarborough Reef) is a series of small rocks and islands which are formed into a triangle shape in the South China Sea, located some 220 kilometers from the Philippines.
  • The largest island features a lagoon and is around sixty square miles in area, while many of the rocks are so small they protrude only a metre or so from the sea at low tide and are completely submerged when the tide is high.
  • The deep waters around the shoal make it a productive fishing area, rich in marine life, and the lagoon also contains many commercially valuable shellfish and sea cucumbers.
  • The shoal is the source of an ongoing and, so far, unresolved dispute between the People’s Republic of Chinaand the Philippines, with both countries claiming that the shoal lies within their territory and saying they have exclusive rights to access its waters.
    • There are no structures built on Scarborough Shoal, but the feature is effectively controlled by China, which has maintained a constant coast guard presence at the feature since 2012.
    • China, which now refers to the shoal as Huangyan Island, makes a historical claim to the area, stating that they can trace their ownership of the area back to the Yuan Dynasty of the 1200s.
    • The Philippines claim the area on the basis of geography, as it is much closer to the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, which contains the capital, Manila, but lies over 500 miles from China.

Q1: What is a lagoon?

A lagoon is a body of water separated from larger bodies of water by a natural barrier.Lagoons are separated from larger bodies of water by sandbars, barrier reefs, coral reefs, or other natural barriers.

Source: Philippines urges China to allow scrutiny of disputed South China Sea shoal