SEA Standoff: China and Philippines remain in vigil at Scarbrough Shoal
Manila - Both the Philippine coast guard Patrol Vessel BRP Pampanga, a 56 meter long cutter and a similar sized vessel from China remain "on station" in sea West of Luzon Island. At a Atol reef and islet, where a small outcroping of rocks breaks the to surface and rich fishing grounds lay just off the province of Zambales.
Encounters remain a problem with a Chinese maritime police vessel earler in the day, allegedly per the Philippine Government
The Islet, now at the center of a dispute between Manila and Beijing, began on April 8th, when a regular Philippine naval patrol sighted foreign vessels at a shoal that the Philippines has considered its teritory since Independance was recognized by the United States in 1946. In a statement released then by the foreign affiars department. "Philippine Navy (PN) surveillance aircraft monitored eight (8) Chinese fishing vessels anchored inside the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal on Sunday, 08 April 2012, in the course of its enforcement of the Philippine Fisheries Code and marine environment protection laws." a Naval vessel was dispatched to investigate. The Philippines newly aquired former US Coast Guard high endurance cutter.
The Philippine government statement then issued said, "The Panatag Shoal is an integral part of Philippine territory. The Shoal is 124 nautical miles from the nearest basepoint in Zambales Province. It is within the Philippines' 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf." it is over 800 kilometers from the Chinese mainland. About 380 kilometers from the Chinese held Parcel Islands. (formerly a possesion of Vietnam)
The Philippine naval vessels boarding party photograpghed coral and shells gathered from the reef area. As well as Sharks which are protected under Philippine law. "To protect the marine environment and resources in the Panatag Shoal and to assert Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights over the area as a responsible coastal state, the PN deployed the BRP GREGORIO DEL PILAR (PF-15) from Palawan to Northern Luzon waters on 08 April 2012 to conduct maritime patrol over the Shoal. In the course of its patrol, PF-15 confirmed the presence of the eight (8) Chinese fishing vessels anchored inside the lagoon of the Shoal." the statement then said, "The PN vessel remained in the vicinity of the Shoal for continuous monitoring of the fishing vessels."
On April 10th 2012, The Philippine DFA statement said, that boarding teams from the Philippine Navy boarded a chinese vessel. "inspection team reported that large amounts of illegally collected corals, giant clams and live sharks were found inside the compartments of the first fishing vessel that was boarded by the PN team." Photo's showing these with date and GPS data were gathered.
However, before the Philippine Naval vessel could detain the Chinese fishing vessles, "two (2) Chinese maritime surveillance ships identified as Zhonggou Haijian 75 and Zhonggou Haijian 84 managed to sail at the mouth of the Shoal, placing themselves between PF-15 and the eight (8) Chinese fishing vessels, thus preventing the arrest of the erring Chinese fishermen.
A three day standoff ensued where Philippine and Chinese vessels faced off. However Saturday afternoon in Manila. The Foreign affiars department released a statement that the Chinese fishing vessles had left in the morning. Also, that later in the a new PRC Coast Guard ship arrived in the area. Further that a Chinese Maritime patrol aircraft buzzed the lone remaining Philippine vessel. "I seek a deeper element of trust from our Chinese friends.” foriegn secretary Del Rosario told reporters in Manila.
Further even as, Friday PRC vessels, including a patrol vessel left the area noon, followed that evening by, five more fishing vessels left accompanied by a Chinese fisheries law enforcement ship.
Manila now says new vessel have taken up positions at the Shoal.
thus, Manila says, "The standoff continue as Chinese coast guard ships and maritime patrol aircraft also came 'very close' to the BRP Pampanga.
While new reports of a Philippine flaged dive vessel being 'harrassed by a unnamed Chinese vessel." The DFA also noted 7 french underwater explorers were aboard that vessel.
As Chinese and Philippine aircraft patroling the skies above and coast guard vessles renew almost week long standoff, Manila says the still hope for a peaceful resolution of rthe issues.
Manila's Foreign Affiars Secretary, said he hoped a diplomatic effort will continue to ease tension in the area.
Which are just east of major international sealances. As well as a almost at a major underwater fiber optics junction for telecomunications in Southeast Asia.
Earlier reports also noted that Vietnamese poachers were also apprehended near the coastal areas of Balabac Island in Palawan Province. "It has been a busy week for the Navy." the Philippine DFA Secretary said.
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