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Panatag Shoal

DFA: Deployment of Chinese patrol ship might violate PHL-China pact on Panatag Shoal

April 20, 2012 12:05pm

(Updated 6:05 p.m.) The reported deployment of a high-tech maritime patrol ship by China to the West Philippine Sea might be a violation of an agreement on the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal dispute, a Philippine Foreign Affairs official said Friday.

"[Ang napaulat na deployment] ay parang violation ng agreement na 'wag i-aggravate yung situation doon," Department Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokeman and assistant secretary Raul Hernandez said in an interview on GMA News TV's "News To Go."

"Magkakaroon ng panibagong tensyon sa lugar kapag nagpadala [ang China] ng mga barko doon," Hernandez added.

Hernandez made the statement after the China Daily reported that China's "fastest fishery administration vessel, Yuzheng 310, left Guangzhou to cruise in the South China Sea."

"[The deployment] is aimed to better protect Chinese fishermen's rights and marine resources," the report quoted an anonymous official from the South China Sea Fishery Bureau as saying.

But the Chinese official did not divulge the particular destination of the ship.

On the other hand, Hernandez said the DFA has yet to verify the report, and if the deployment is true, and the vessel goes into Philippine territory, it can be treated as an intrusion.

"This is another intrusion kung halimbawa pupunta sila doon sa Scarborough [Panatag] Shoal at sa iba pang mga lugar kung saan tayo may sovereign [rights]. So, tututulan natin ito," he said.

At a press briefing later in the day, Hernandez confirmed that a new fishing boat arrived in Panatag Shoal but that they still cannot say if this is the same high-tech ship sent by China.
"Maybe this is the boat that they are saying," he said, adding that they plan to ask Chinese authorities why they are aggravating the situation by sending more ships.
" In our next talk we will ask China why they are trying to do this and ask why they have violated our agreement not to aggravate not to escalate the situation in the Scarborough Shoal," he said.

For nearly two weeks, the Philippines and China have had a standoff, which started when Philippine Naval authorities spotted Chinese fishing boats in the shoal.

The Chinese fishermen were found to have taken endangered marine species.

But before the Navy ship BRP Gregorio del Pilar could make arrests, Chinese maritime vessels blocked its path. Later, the fishing boats left the area with their illegal harvest of endangered marine life.

Right now, two Chinese surveillance ships and one Philippine Coast Guard vessel remain in the area.

Hernandez said he doesn't know whether the Philippine government will send an additional ship there.

"This will be the call of our Coast Guard and other policy makers... ayaw natin i-aggravate yung sitwasyon kasi... kulang ang ating mga barko at mga eroplano," he said.

He likewise said that the DFA has already invited Chinese officials to join the Philippines in bringing the issue to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), which has jurisdiction over the issue.

"Sa ngayon, ang ating nakikitang solusyon ay diplomatiko... idulog ang isyu sa ITLOS kasi this is the proper forum.... Sana pakinggan tayo ng Tsina," he said.

"We understand that the world is watching and the issue at hand has a wider implication on how China is asserting its territorial claim which has no basis in international law [so] we hope that China will behave as a responsible member of the international community," he added.

China has reportedly rejected the proposal but Hernandez said the DFA has yet to receive a formal answer from Beijing. — LBG/RSJ, GMA News
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