The online news portal of TV5
CAMP AQUINO, Tarlac City - The chief of the Armed Forces' Northern Luzon Command on Tuesday accused China of "not telling the truth" when it claimed it had withdrawn its vessels from disputed Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.
A statement from the Chinese Embassy on Monday said the Yuzheng 310, China's most advanced fishery patrol vessel - which is armed and has a helipad - and the surveillance ship CMS 84 had left Scarborough, where the Philippines and China have been engaged in a standoff that has entered its second week.
The standoff was triggered by attempts of the Philippine Navy flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar to take into custody eight Chinese fishing vessels loaded with contraband marine products.
Citing field reports, Alcantara said that as of 8 p.m. Monday, the Yuzheng 310 had been spotted about eight nautical miles southeast of the shoal.
"We're not doubting their claims; we're telling them they are not telling the truth," Alcantara said.
Reports from Nolcom said another Chinese surveillance ship, CMS 71, has been spotted 12 nautical miles southeast of the location of the BRP Pampanga, the Coast Guard vessel in the area.
"At the moment, there is a BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) ship that went there, anchored inside the shoal," Alcantara told reporters here.
Aside from the Yuzheng 310 and the CMS 71, two more Chinese "small boats" were spotted inside the shoal as of Monday night.
Three more Chinese fishing vessels have been spotted outside the shoal.
Authorities were unsure of the location of two other Chinese surveillance ships, the CMS 84 and CMS 75.
"Most likely they're there, out of sight at some point in time. One thing is certain they are there now and looks like they are bent to stay in the area," Alcantara said.
Alcantara described the situation in the area as "stable," adding that at the moment, Chinese fishermen were no longer harvesting endangered marine life such as giant clams and baby sharks.
"We won’t allow the Chinese to conquer our territory," Alcantara vowed.
Although the government has stressed that it will exhaust all diplomatic channels to resolve the standoff, Alcantara said the military is ready to perform its mandate.
"I can assure you that your armed forces are prepared and the Philippine government is prepared. I think we can handle it on our own," Alcantara said.
"We are following a national strategy on this matter. The military is just a small part but I can assure you that the armed forces are doing its share to be part of the nationalist strategy. We are ready," he added.
The military has readied contingency measures, including the possible redeployment of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar.