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Chinese envoy miscommunicated 'deal' on Scarborough withdrawal: DFA

MANILA, Philippines - Information relayed to China regarding moves by both Manila and Beijing to withdraw from a standoff in a disputed territory off Zambales was "not complete" and "misleading."

This was announced by Raul Hernandez, the Philippines' foreign affairs spokesperson during a press briefing on Monday.

Information that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing had relayed to Beijing about the agreement to withdraw from the Scarborough Shoal was "not complete" and "misleading," Hernandez said. The move to withdraw from the territory was discussed by both Ma and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.

"There was no such agreement. That was still being discussed. There was also no agreement on the poaching of the Chinese fishing ships which illegally collected big amounts of endangered species in the area," Hernandez said.

The agreement between the two officials was for "no actions that would tend to escalate the situation," he added.

As of Monday morning, three Chinese fishing vessels were spotted inside the lagoon where eight similar ships were first seen on April 8, with one Chinese surveillance ship monitored in the Scarborough Shoal, Hernandez said.

During the previous day, four Chinese fishing vessels and two Chinese government ships were in the area.

The Philippine Coast Guard BRP Pampanga is also in the area monitoring the activities in the area, including poaching and other activities deemed illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) and the Philippines' own Fisheries Code, the DFA spokesman said.

The DFA has yet to receive any report of poaching and other illegal activities.

The DFA spokesman also revealed that since the meeting in Manila on April 16 and in Beijing on April 18, no additional meetings at the diplomatic level have been scheduled as the two parties are probably waiting for the right timing.

'Philippines ready to go to ITLOS alone'

While the Philippines is still pursuing a diplomatic solution to the two-week Scarborough standoff, it is now preparing for a legal solution--- raising the issue before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas or ITLOS, Hernandez said.

This track has been verbally and officially relayed to China some months back when the DFA Secretary was in China to meet with his counterpart, and again in the meeting on April 16 between Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio and Ambassador Ma in the hope of reaching an "enduring resolution."

Unofficially, Secretary del Rosario has publicly invited China to the ITLOS over the weekend.

Although the Philippines is still "looking into" putting the ITLOS option in writing, Hernandez said: "If China does not want to go to ITLOS, the Philippines is prepared to go at it alone. (When) the legal team is ready to file, then we will file."

The diplomatic tractkis still multilateral as the area is contested by other countries as well, he said.

Aside from China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam are also claimants to parts of the West Philippine Sea (also known as South China Sea).

No new ambassador-designate to China yet

As the Scarborough standoff continues, Del Rosario has already "somebody in mind" to nominate as the Philippines' ambassador to China, said Hernandez, who added that he has not been told who this would be.

This person is from the ranks of career diplomats and knows about the issue and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas. Del Rosario was unable to attend the press conference at the DFA after spraining his ankle in Malacañang and has been advised to rest.

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| April 23, 2012 | Article Link

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