More Chinese fishing vessels have been spotted in Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) even as Filipinos protested China’s claim and presence in the disputed territory Friday.

Sixteen Chinese fishing vessels were seen at the shoal 9 a.m. and 14 were still there in the afternoon, Lt. Cmdr. Alger Ricafrente, Coast Guard spokesman, said.

The number of fishing vessels rose from the seven seen inside the horseshoe-shaped shoal last Sunday, as reported by the Armed Forces’ Northern Luzon Command.

Ricafrente, however, said the fishing vessels were “outside” the shoal Friday.

Aside from the fishing vessels, also seen around Panatag were two Chinese Maritime Surveillance vessels and China’s fisheries law enforcement command vessel, or the patrol gunboat Yuzheng 310.

Seen “inside” the shoal, meanwhile, are the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ MCS-3001 vessel and six Filipino fishing boats.

“Mga de-katig ito, parang mga basnig, malalaki rin,” Ricafrente said of the Filipino boats, which increased from the four reported by the Department of National Defense on Wednesday.

“Puwede nating sabihin na tahimik ang situation doon, co-existing ang mga mangingisda doon,” Ricafrente said.

On Friday, at least 500 people, including members of Akbayan and a group calling itself US Good Governance Team rallied in front of China’s Consular Office in Makati City to protest China’s claim to Panatag, Supt. Jenny Tecson, Southern Police District spokeswoman, said.

The groups called on China to respect and honor international law and back off from the shoal, she said. (John Roson)

– end –