Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Violating agreement, 77 Chinese vessels back in Panatag Shoal — DFA

Seventy-seven Chinese vessels are back in the vicinity of the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, said Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda Basilio.

Basilio said the Chinese vessels incrementally came back after they pulled out earlier this month.

“Nakikita natin na planado iyon. May plano talaga,” she said in an interview on GMA News TV program News To Go.

She said that the Chinese fishing vessels were spotted by Philippine surveillance planes over Panatag Shoal.

Basilio also said China should have pulled out all its vessels as early as June 16, when Philippine President Benigno Aquino III ordered the withdrawal of all the country’s ships from the disputed territory.

“Mayroon tayong kasunduan sa kanila, pero sila ay hindi tumupad. Tayo umalis doon kasi simultaneous sana ang pag-alis, pero hindi sila umalis,” she said.

The Philippines has been engaged in a three-month-old territorial dispute with China over ownership of Panatag Shoal, located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales.
The Philippines asserts ownership over the shoal based on traditional use and provisions in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), while China maintains that its ownership is based on historical claims.

‘Serious concern’

Basilio meanwhile described the stranding of a Chinese naval frigate near Hasa-Hasa (Half Moon) Shoal off Palawan as “a cause for serious concern.”

“Kung warship na, under the declaration of the Conduct of Parties of the South China Sea, bawal nga ‘yan,” she said. 

She added that she personally saw the presence of the Chinese frigate in Philippine territory as a “threat of the use of force.”

“Meron namang Freedom of Navigation, pero kung warships yung ipinapakita, ipinapadaan daan mo diyan, hindi na yata tama yun di ba?” she said.

The Chinese warship reportedly ran aground near Hasa-Hasa Shoal last Wednesday, but was refloated on Sunday.

The Hasa-Hasa shoal, located 60 nautical miles off Palawan’s Rizal town, is part of the Spratly Islands—a string of atolls and islands straddling vital shipping lanes in the West Philippine Sea believed sitting atop vast mineral deposits.

Apart from the Philippines and China, the Spratlys are claimed in whole or in part by rival Taiwan and the other Southeast Asian countries of Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The Philippine government said it will conduct a probe on the stranding of the Chinese warship inside Hasa-Hasa Shoal.-GMA News (July 16, 2012 9:18PM)

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