The Philippine military on Tuesday said three Chinese ships remain in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, contrary to the claim of the Chinese Embassy that it has withdrawn two of its vessels from the disputed area.
Embassy spokesman Zhang Hua earlier said China pulled out
two of its vessels last night from the Shoal, including Fishery Administration ship "Yuzheng 310" and Chinese Maritime Surveillance ship No. 084.
"There is only one Maritime Surveillance ship remaining in the Huangyan Island area for its law enforcement mission," Zhang said, according to an article
posted on China's government portal Tuesday.
But in an interview with reporters also on Tuesday, Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara said their information indicates that as of 8 p.m. Monday, three Chinese ships remain in the area.
He said the Chinese Maritime (CM) vessel 71 and two fishery law enforcement command (FLEC) 310 ships remain in Panatag. He said the CM 71 was spotted 12 nautical miles from BRP EDSA, the country's own ship stationed in Panatag, while the FLECs were spotted eight nautical miles from it.
"Most likely, nandun lang yun nagiikot lang...out of sight in some point in time but one is certain, they are there now and it looks like they are bent to stay around in the area," he said.
"I think they do that in terms [of] tactical positioning... they do that, and they move from time, from day to day nagpapalit po e, everyday nagpapalit ang positioning nila," he added.
Alcantara said that at least three Chinese fishing boats were also spotted in the area, within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.
The Philippines and China have engaged in a standoff in the area since early this month after Philippine military forces spotted Chinese fishing vessels in the vicinity of Panatag Shoal.
Chinese fishermen there were found to have taken endangered marine species, but before the crew of a Philippine Navy ship could make arrests, two Chinese vessels blocked their path.
Although noting that the situation in Panatag remained "stable," Alcantara said the AFP is always ready to help the Philippine Coast Guard anytime.
"Right now the situation in the Shoal is, in the area is stable, there is no untoward incident right now, what we are taking care of, what we are watching out is when our Filipino fishermen go to the place and that’s what we care about," he said.
"[But] the mission is clear for NolCom, it is to take care of our own territory, assert our sovereignty in the Scarborough Shoal, its simple," he added. — RSJ, GMA News