Friday, April 13, 2012

DFA: 1 of 3 Chinese vessels in Scarborough standoff leaves; diplomatic talks resume

The tension at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea appeared to ease early Friday after one of three Chinese ships left the area.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said they were informed by the Chinese embassy in Manila that the Chinese ship that left had another mission.

"Na-inform tayo ng Embassy ng China sa Manila na meron silang ibang mission... 'Yung isa sa tatlo na barko [umalis]," Hernandez said in an interview on dzBB radio.

But he said two other Chinese ships remain in the area, along with the Philippine Coast Guard vessel.

Hernandez also said DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario met with Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing at 8 a.m., but he did not immediately give further details.

"Nag-uusap si Sec. del Rosario at Ambassador Ma. We think nakakuha siya ng new information from Beijing hinggil sa ating mga panukala para makahanap ng solusyon sa nangyayari sa Scarborough Shoal," he said.

(Del Rosario and Ma are in a meeting. We think they have new information from Beijing and are working toward a solution to address the tension at the Scarborough Shoal.)

The Philippines and China are in another standoff off the shoal this week after the Philippine military accosted Chinese fishermen aboard eight fishing vessels in the area.

When the Philippine Navy's BRP Gregorio del Pilar was about to send teams to board the Chinese fishing vessels, two Chinese maritime surveillance ships blocked its path.

On Thursday, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar left the area, supposedly for refueling and reprovisioning. In its place was a vessel from the Philippine Coast Guard, the search-and-rescue vessel BRP Pampanga.

Navy commander Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said the Gregorio del Pilar was in La Union for "refueling and reprovisioning."

"Nakaalerto ito kung anong susunod na utos," he said in a separate interview on dzBB radio.

Asked if the BRP Gregorio del Pilar will return to the Scarborough area, Pama hinted it may not immediately do so.

"Ang guidance sa amin, hindi dapat paigtingin ang level ng tension doon," he said.
GMA News Online | April 13, 2012 | Article Link