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PCG ships may leave Panatag in typhoon season

MANILA, Philippines - In an absence of bigger ships, the Philippines runs the risk of losing altogether its territorial hold of Panatag Shoal to the Chinese with the onset of the typhoon season, a senior security official said yesterday.
“This is now the greatest challenge we are facing. We are not only up against a more superior Chinese maritime ships out there but the wrath of nature in the coming months,” the security official, who asked not to be named.
The Philippines and China are locked in a tense territorial row over the rock formation in the part of the West Philippine Sea located 124 nautical miles from Zambales and more than 500 kilometers from China’s island province of Hainan.
China has deployed dozens of ships in the area as against the two Philippine vessels from the coast guard and bureau of fishery.
The official said with the forthcoming typhoon season, the two Philippine vessels would be forced out of the area and to seek shelter in the mainland.
“We don’t like another Panganiban Reef from happening in Panatag Shoal,” the official said, adding that they are now looking and considering measures to maintain the country’s presence in the area all-year round.

While nobody was watching, the Chinese occupied and initially built what it previously called a fishermen’s shelter at Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) 87 nautical miles from mainland Palawan in 1994.

The Chinese would later convert the shoal into a heavily fortified multi-layered military structure complete with advanced communication equipment.

“This is what we are also seeing to happen in Panatag Shoal if we are going to leave the area,” he said.

He said despite the predominance of Chinese ships and their fishing vessels in the Panatag Shoal, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel continue to conduct maritime patrol in the area, specifically inside the lagoon.

Aboard motorized rubber boats, PCG personnel, he said, are constantly monitoring all the activities inside the lagoon with a primary mission to determine what the Chinese are doing in the area.

“Our PCG personnel patrol the lagoon in the morning and in the afternoon, recording all movements and activities of Chinese in the area,” he said.

But he said these patrols would also be shelved once the typhoon season sets in and the absence of the physical presence of Filipinos in the area would give the Chinese vast opportunities to do whatever their planned activities in the area which they are claiming to be theirs.

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Jaime Laude | The Philippine Star | May 29, 2012 | Article Link

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