Sunday, April 29, 2012

Philippines to ‘stand ground’ in Scarborough Shoal

MANILA, Philippines – Five Philippine vessels– the BRP Edsa, a Coast Guard search-and-rescue ship; MCS 3008, a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-owned vessel; and three fishing boats – will remain posted at Scarborough Shoal, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Sunday.

“We will continue to stand up and hold our ground,” the DFA said in a statement, a day after a large China ship allegedly harassed two small Philippine vessels at Scarborough Shoal.

China still has 10 vessels in the area – three maritime surveillance ships and seven fishing boats.

Aside from the FLEC 310 and CMS 71, “there is one unidentified (Chinese ship) that is positioned 10.9 nautical miles away from the BRP Edsa,” according to Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesperson.

As of 8 a.m. Sunday, Hernandez said there were also seven Chinese fishing boats “inside the lagoon” of  Scarborough Shoal, which Manila calls Panatag and Bajo de Masinloc. China refers to the shoal, located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales province, as Huangyan Island.

The FLEC 310, touted as China’s most modern maritime surveillance ship, was the same vessel that reportedly harassed the BRP Edsa and the BRP Pampanga, another Coast Guard search-and-rescue ship, the other day.

Hernandez said the DFA would “bring this incident to the attention of the Chinese authorities.”

In a statement Saturday, the foreign office said the “speeding” FLEC 310 approached the two Philippine vessels at around 20 knots and then veered away, generating a two-meter wave.

Hernandez said a report from the Coast Guard commander, Vice Admiral Edmund Tan, put the time of the “bullying” at around 9 a.m. Saturday, as the BRP Edsa was relieving the BRP Pampanga.

No damage was inflicted on the two ships, which did not react to the bullying by the Chinese vessel, he added.

The INQUIRER tried but failed to reach the Chinese Embassy in Makati City for comment on the incident.

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