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World | National

Tension dies down in Scarborough Shoal as Chinese vessels leave
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATED - 2:12 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines - Tension has died down in Scarborough Shoal following the pullout of Chinese vessels in the area after days of standoff with the Philippines. 

Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara, Northern Luzon Command commander, on Saturday said that only one vessel - Chinese vessel number 84 - remained in the area with the Philippine Coast Guard vessel, SARV-003.

"Wala nang tension [There's no more tension]," Alcantara said.

Seven Chinese vessels including their marine survey vessel, the Zhungguo Haijan 75, left the area, Friday noon. At around 7 p.m., five more vessels pulled out leaving only one in the shoal. 

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez confirmed that the fishing boats along with a Chinese maritime surveillance ship left the disputed Scarborough Shoal on Friday, leaving only one Chinese maritime vessel at the site.  

"All the eight Chinese fishing boats have already left and as of last night, there was only one Chinese (civilian government) vessel there," Hernandez told Agence France Presse.

According to Alcantara, the pullout was "apparently the result of the negotiation by our foreign department with that of the Chinese counterparts." 

For his part, Hernandez said the departure of the Chinese boats was not part of any agreement with China and that the two countries were still trying to settle the standoff through diplomatic channels.

The crisis started on Sunday when the Philippines found the eight Chinese fishing boats in the area, which the Philippines claims as its territory.

A Philippine navy warship was preparing to arrest the Chinese fishermen for poaching but China dispatched three civilian vessels to take turns blocking the Philippine ship.

A Philippine coast guard ship later replaced the navy ship but on Friday, it was reported that three of the eight Chinese fishing boats had left the shoal. A day later, all eight were found to have fled.

The Philippines says the shoal is in its territory, well within the country's 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, as recognised by international law.

However China has insisted the shoal is Chinese territory as part of its claim to all of the South China Sea, even waters up to the coasts of other countries.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also claim all or parts of the waters as their own.

The Philippines and Vietnam complained last year of increasingly aggressive acts by China in staking its claim to the South China Sea.