A warship of the Philippine Navy and two Chinese maritime surveillance ships remain positioned at the Scarborough Shoal for the second day Wednesday, after the force caught some Chinese vessels poaching in the area.
The Department of National Defense has already called on China to respect Philippine sovereignty in the area, which is located only 124 nautical miles off Zambales province and is called by Manila as Panatag Shoal.
“We are hopeful that the Chinese government will heed the Philippines’ position, which is based on UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and accepted by the community of nations,” a statement from Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s office read.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, on the other hand, has already filed a diplomatic protest but is continuously contacting China, which maintained that it owns what it calls Huangyan Island.
Earlier, Navy chief Vice Adm. Alexander Pama reported that the BRP Gregorio del Pilar went to Scarborough Shoal early Tuesday after receiving information that eight Chinese fishing boats were spotted there.
Members of the warship’s crew boarded the boats past 7 a.m. and found large quantities of corals, giant clams, and live sharks, Pama said.Two hours after boarding the boats, the crew returned to Gregorio del Pilar and maneuvered to report the capture to land-based authorities, but the Chinese Maritime Surveillance vessels Zhongguo Haijan 75 and Zhongguo Haijan 84 arrived.
The surveillance ships positioned themselves at the mouth of the shoal’s “lagoon,” covering the boats, and told the BRP Gregorio del Pilar via radio to leave as it was “intruding” into China’s territory, Pama said.
“In response, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar also advised the Chinese Maritime Surveillance vessels that the area is not part of Chinese territory but is well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone,” the Navy chief said.
The “stand-off” is still ongoing as of this writing. (John Roson)
– end –