Three Vietnamese ships looking for shelter from high winds at the Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal on Tuesday were denied access by Chinese vessels, Vietnam’s search and rescue committee said Wednesday.
According to a release from the Office of the National Search and Rescue Committee (SAR), three Vietnamese vessels sent requests around noon on Tuesday for shelter at the Scarborough Shoal due to force-seven winds at sea.
The ships had set off from the central Vietnamese province of Quang Nam carrying 134 fishermen and were at coordinates 15o00’N 117o44’E near the Scarborough Shoal at the time the requests were sent, according to SAR.
Scarborough Shoal is located 220 kilometers from the Filipino Luzon Island and 650 kilometers away from China’s Hainan, well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
In April 2012, Philippine and Chinese ships had a major standoff and Beijing has since occupied the shoal.
After receiving distress calls from the fishing boats, Vietnam’s SAR requested the Consular Office under the foreign ministry to ask Filipino authorities to allow the Vietnamese ships safe entry into the shoal.
The fishing ships, however, were reportedly fenced off from approaching the Scarborough Shoal by four Chinese vessels, and were still at sea at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, according to SAR.
SAR said they were working closely with the Border Defense Force and Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center to maintain communication with the Vietnamese ships and guide them to safety on the Philippines’ Luzon Island.