More Chinese law enforcement vessels have been spotted in Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) as the standoff between the Philippines and China neared its second month, a security official said.

As of Thursday morning, authorities monitored four Chinese Maritime Surveillance (CMS) vessels and three Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) vessels, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The number of vessels increased from only two CMS ships and three FLEC vessels reported by the Department of Foreign Affairs last week.

The security official said there are now only eight Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal and no “utility boats” were spotted.

Last May 23, the DFA reported that there were 16 Chinese fishing vessels and 56 “utility boats” at the shoal.

The standoff started on April 10, when a Philippine Navy ship tried to arrest Chinese fishermen on vessels carrying corals, endangered giant clams, and live sharks poached from Philippine waters.

Asean-China ties ‘unaffected’ – DND

Meanwhile, Department of National Defense spokesman Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said yesterday that military ties between the Association and Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China remain unaffected by issues in the West Philippine Sea, including the standoff in Panatag.

He said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and other Asean defense chiefs discussed the issue during their meeting in Cambodia.

“When the issue of the West Philippine Sea was touched, the ASEAN Defense Ministers have concurred that the defense and military cooperation between ASEAN and China remained unaffected,” Galvez said in a statement.

Galvez, however, pointed out that Asean member-states stand put in their commitment to implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“Likewise, together with the rest of the ASEAN, we underscore the importance of freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea as provided for by universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said. (John Roson)

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