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Panatag Shoal now open to Filipino fishermen

President Aquino said Friday Filipino fishermen were no longer barred from the disputed Panatag Shoal, where Philippine and Chinese vessels are locked in a 23-day standoff.

“Our fishermen have not been prevented from going back, except for during the initial stage…They’re going there,” he said in an interview with Malacañang reporters a day after the Chinese reportedly increased their presence in the area well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile (370.4-km) exclusive economic zone.

The President said the government was gathering evidence of Chinese intrusion in Panatag, known internationally as Scarborough Shoal, for a planned case against Beijing before an international tribunal.

Mr. Aquino said Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario during his trip to the United States this week spoke with experts on how the Philippines can bring the dispute to a tribunal despite the usual requirement for the other side to agree to mediation. China wants bilateral talks to resolve the issue.

“There are certain modes…wherein even only one side can present (a case),” the President said.

“We are documenting everything that’s been happening. When we get to the proper fora, then we will present all of this,” he added.

The standoff started on April 10, when two Chinese surveillance ships stopped the Philippine Navy from inspecting Chinese fishing boats carrying poached marine life.

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