Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More Chinese warships seen in Philippine waters

Philippine military surveillance aircraft have taken photos of a Chinese missile frigate that ran aground at Half Moon Shoal just off Palawan last Wednesday, as well as China's operations to free the vessel.

The Chinese embassy in Manila said the frigate was "refloated successfully" before daybreak Sunday and returned to China.

Five other warships belonging to the People's Liberation Army Navy were also seen in Philippine waters on Saturday, based on the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) surveillance.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, said it is waiting for a report from the Coast Guard regarding a large Chinese fishing fleet near Kagitingan or Fiery Cross Reef, which is just 170 nautical miles west of Palawan.

"If the Coast Guard confirms the report, the government will immediately file a protest with the Chinese government," said Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez.

Chinese state media on Monday released video footage of the fishing vessels.

China Central Television (CCTV) said it is the largest fleet ever to fish in the Spratlys, which Beijing refers to as the Nansha Islands.

The video clip shows fishermen preparing the refrigeration equipment of one supply ship where the fish will be stored.

Coast Guard tracking Chinese fleet

A Philippines military official said the Coast Guard is tracking the Chinese fleet.

Navy ships will be sent to the area if the Coast Guard will need help, Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo.

"As far as we are concerned, whenever told to do so, like for example assist the Philippine Coast Guard, then we will be in the area," he said. "The Coast Guard is in charge of policing the area."

"The mandate of the Armed Force of the Philippines is very clear. We are the implementor so whenever told upon by higher authorities, we will just execute. We execute orders, so whatever is the order handed down to us, we will just execute," Burgos added.

"Our patrols are continuing. The Philippine Navy is also patrolling our shores, in coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard, while our Philippine Air Force is patrolling our skies also," he said. "Coordination between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines is very critical when it comes to that."

Chinese state media announced Monday night that a fleet of 30 fishing ships from Hainan province started casting nets in waters near Yongshu or Fiery Cross reef.

The ships, which are being escorted by Chinese Fisheries Law Enforcement Command vessel Yuzheng-310, will stay for up to 10 days in the area.

China and Vietnam engaged in a deadly naval battle in waters near the reef in 1998, resulting in the death of 70 Vietnamese troops and the sinking of 2 Vietnamese vessels.

PH to continue to assert sovereignty

Meantime, Malacañang said the Philippines will continue to assert its sovereignty over its exclusive economic zone even as it abides by peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve its territorial dispute with China.

"We will maintain our sovereign rights over our exclusive economic zone. That is something that we will not give up," Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.

"We will assert our sovereign rights over our exclusive economic zone," he added.

No decision, however, has been reached if the Philippines will redeploy its vessels back to Scarborough Shoal, which the Palace reiterates, is part of the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

"Our policy is to deescalate tensions… Pinag-aaralan pa kung ibabalik ang mga sasakyan… Wala pang decision," Lacierda said.

Lacierda maintains that the Philippines will abide by peaceful and diplomatic means in resolving the territorial dispute with China.

"We are certainly going to use very peaceful means to resolve the situation in the areas that we are, in Scarborough," he said.

He also said that the Philippine strategy in dealing with China, as discussed during a closed cabinet meeting last week, was "not hampered" by the absence of a joint communiqué following the ASEAN foreign minister's meeting.

PNoy thanks China for water project

Despite the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, it's not all bad blood between the two countries.

President Benigno Aquino has thanked China for funding the MWSS' Angat Water Utilization and Aqueduct Improvement Project.

Aquino and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing attended the project's inauguration in Quezon City Tuesday.

The President did not mention the two countries' territorial dispute, but stressed the importance of respecting each country's dignity.

"Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa pondong ipinagkaloob ng bansang Tsina. Kaisa natin ang buong mundo sa ating adhikain: isang daigdig kung saan ang bawat indibidwal, bawat komunidad at bawat bansa ay iginagalang at kinikilalang may likas na dignidad," he said.

The Chinese ambassador did not also comment on the territorial row.

"Sorry, I came here just for this project. I'm not prepared to answer your questions. Some other time maybe," she said.

The China-funded project costs P5.2 billion.

Aquino said it will prevent the leakage of 394 million liters of water a day and improve supply for residents in Metro Manila, Rizal, and Cavite.-ABS-CBN News (July 18, 2102)

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