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No agreement on Philippine pullout from Scarborough Shoal -- DFA

A photograph of the Chinese surveillance ship taken by the Philippine Navy.
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA -- The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday reiterated that no agreement had been reached with the Chinese government on the pullout of Philippine vessels from the disputed Scarborough Shoal, and called it “unfortunate” that China’s “more assertive” presence in the area is “based on inaccurate appreciation of the facts and dynamics of the negotiations.”

In the note verbale, DFA said it is concerned about China’s statement that it has “become more assertive because the Philippines allegedly broke an agreement on the pull-out of the fishing boats and ships.”

The number of vessels of both claimants to the shoal varies, depending on who is making the claims. China asserts it has only one surveillance ship and one fishing vessel as of the latest count, but the Philippines says there are more.

”There has never been an agreement reached,” DFA pointed out. “The DFA is of the view that it was unfortunate that the Chinese response was based on inaccurate appreciation of the facts and dynamics of the negotiations.”

The DFA believes that responsibility for resolving the stand-off in the South China Sea “rests not just with one party but with both parties,” apparently in reference to Manila’s adoption of the legal and rules-based track by seeking mediation of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), an instrument of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Manila has been inviting China to join the effort, but Beijing is not budging and insisted that quiet bilateral diplomatic talks are its preferred route.

The DFA position was contained in a note verbale presented on Wednesday to Chinese Ambassador to Manila, Ma Keqing, who was summoned to DFA Headquarters and met with Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs Ma. Theresa Lazaro.

The Chinese Embassy was also informed that “in order to address the impasse and to avoid future misunderstanding, the dialogue between the two Governments must be based on complete trust.” There must also be “confidence that information to be conveyed to the capitals must be an accurate rendition of facts,” the note verbale stated.

Both sides agreed to continue to work together to move the process forward, they said.