Members of the Chinese Coast Guard continue to harass Filipino fishing vessels and fleets from nearby countries in waters near the Scarborough Shoal, a top US military official in the Pacific region has said.

In a statement delivered before US Senate Committee on the Armed Services, US Admiral Philip Davidson said Beijing maintains maritime claims in the South China Sea that are contrary to international law.

He said China posed a substantial long-term threat to the rules-based international order.

“Chinese Coast Guard vessels now fall under the command of the Central Military Commission and regularly harass and intimidate fishing vessels from our treaty ally, the Philippines, operating near Scarborough Reef, as well as the fishing fleets of other regional nations,” Davidson said.

Davidson is the commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command.

Members of the Chinese coast guard were reported to have harassed Filipino fishermen in 2018.

They even took the prized catch of the Filipinos from the resource-rich waters off the Scarborough Shoal.

The incidents were dismissed by the Duterte government as a form of barter trade between the Filipinos and the Chinese.

Towards the end of the year, the Chinese coast guard allowed the Filipinos to fish near the shoal but apparently were still in control of the waters well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“Beijing ignored the 2016 ruling of an Arbitral Tribunal established under Annex VII of the Law of the Sea Convention, which concluded that China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the “nine-dash line” are contrary to UNCLOS and without legal effect,” Davidson said in his report on the US command posture in the region.

Davidson said that Beijing in April 2018 continued militarizing outposts by deploying advanced military systems that further enhance the PLA’s power projection capabilities, including missiles and electronic jammers.

“These actions run directly counter to President Xi’s 2015 commitment not to militarize these features,” Davidson said.

“On multiple occasions, Beijing has landed military transport aircraft on the Spratly Islands and longrange bombers on the Paracel Islands,” he added. —NB, GMA News