The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - Leaving the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal unattended by any Philippine ships may lead to a Chinese 'occupancy' in the area, ultimately bolstering claims of 'ownership', Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin warned on Thursday.
Gazmin said that once the weather improves, he would recommend sending the maritime assets of the Philippines back to shoal.
"The Chinese are not leaving the area; we should return," Gazmin told defense reporters.
Asked what the danger was of not deploying ships to the area, Gazmin said: "Pagka hindi mo tinauhan yung lugar na yun, ang ikukuwan nila, 'occupancy', nanduduon sila, so yun ang gagawin nilang basis nung kanilang claim [If you don't populate the area or fill it with your presence, they will invoke 'occupancy'. They are there, and that's what they will use as basis for their claim]."
The Defense chief said the Philippines would be re-deploying ships from its maritime enforcement agencies, specifically ships from the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
The Philippines earlier pulled out its ships from the shoal because of typhoon "Butchoy." President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said Philippines will send back its ships to Scarborough should Chinese vessels remain in the area.