(Update) China’s fisheries patrol gunboat is now in Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal), a Philippine military commander said Saturday.

The fisheries law enforcement gunboat, marked with the number 310, was sighted by a Coast Guard ship around 6 a.m., Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara, commander of the Armed Forces’ Northern Luzon Command, told reporters by phone.

Along with the gunboat was a China Marine Surveillance vessel carrying the number 71, Alcantara said.

As of the moment, only the two Chinese ships are at the shoal. The China Marine Surveillance vessels number 84 and 75 previously seen in the area are not there anymore, he said.

On Friday, five small fishing boats and four Chinese fishing vessels were also seen at the shoal but these were not around anymore on Saturday.

“The situation is stable and there is no untoward incident in the area,” Alcantara said.

Chinese state media reported Thursday that the Yuzheng 310, China’s most advanced fishery administration vessel, was deployed from Guangzhou to protect Chinese fishermen in the South China Sea, which Manila calls West Philippine Sea.

The Department of National Defense on Friday said China’s deployment of the gunboat in the West Philippine Sea was okay, if the vessel does not stray into Philippine waters.

Panatag Shoal is located some 120 nautical miles from the shore of Masinloc town in Zambales province, well within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone provided to coastal states by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. (John Roson)

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