The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III said Monday two Philippine vessels deployed to Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) will remain in the area as a ‘show of flag.’
"We say these are our waters so our vessels should be there," Aquino said.
Coast Guard vessel BRP Pampanga replaced BRP EDSA on Sunday at the site, just 124 nautical miles off Zambales province, where a standoff over fishing rights ensued April 10 and continues, with China sending more boats.
A vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) was also deployed to Panatag Shoal Monday dawn.
China’s FLEC 310 just lurking?
Meanwhile, the maritime vessel marked FLEC 310 sent by China to boost its presence in Philippine territory has not been sighted so far at the Panatag Shoal. But the ship could just be keeping a distance somewhere near the disputed area to avoid detection, Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) chief Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara said Monday.
“We assume the ship (FLEC 310) was just hanging around somewhere near the shoal where it could not be sighted. Anyway, the situation there is stable, everything is normal,” Alcantara said.
The ship is the newest vessel China sent to the Philippine shoal since the April 10 standoff began between the Philippine Navy warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar and a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel---later, two, with bow numbers 71 and 84---that came to the rescue of eight Chinese fishing boats.
Alcantara said the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) SARV 3 left the area Monday to refuel and resupply after the replenished SARV 2 arrived.
“We have another vessel that arrived in the area; the vessel is from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). I think it’s a marine control ship,” he said.
The China Marine Surveillance ship (71), together with two other unidentified fishing vessels believed to be from China, remained in the area.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the government will not be scared by China’s bullying and insisted that the shoal is situated well within Philippine territory.
“The Philippines has an absolute and indisputable sovereignty over the Panatag Shoal; it has exercised effective occupation, jurisdiction and administration over the island and its maritime areas. We exercise Philippine sovereignty over the shoal and its surrounding maritime areas including the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with full accord and consistent with international law including the Unites Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Gazmin said.
Gazmin confirmed the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the biggest warship so far in the inventory of the Philippine Navy and acquired last year from the US Coast Guard, was ordered to stay put at Poro Point in La Union.
The ship together with a smaller British-made “Peacock” is under the command of Capt. Alberto Cruz.
The standoff at the shoal started when BRP del Pilar (former US Hamilton-class cutter) chased 8 vessels of Chinese poachers but was blocked by China’s two surveillance ships (71 and 84).
After the Philippine warship pulled out from the area to refuel, the 8 Chinese fishing vessels loaded with illegal catch such as giant clams, corals and different kinds of endangered marine species escaped from the area.
Diplomatic negotiations have barred the Philippine Navy, Coast Guard and BFAR from apprehending the Chinese poachers.
China has scored the current joint military exercises between the Armed Forces of the Philippine and the US, scheduled since last year, by issuing a warning that the exercises could heighten the risk of confrontation in the West Philippine Sea.
On the same weekend, however, China and Russia also launched their joint naval exercises at the Yellow Sea.