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'PROPAGANDA,' AFP SAYS

China claims driving away Philippine Navy boat in waters around Scarborough Shoal


BEIJING - China's coast guard took measures to drive away a Philippine Navy vessel on Tuesday after it intruded into waters around the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, according to an official statement.

The coast guard said it took "necessary measures" such as forcing the gunboat out and controlling its route after repeated dissuasion and warnings from the Chinese side were ignored.

China claims it has "indisputable sovereignty" over the shoal, which it calls Huangyan Island, and the adjacent waters.

"We urge the Philippines to immediately stop its infringement," coast guard spokesman Gan Yu said, saying the action was also a serious violation of international law.

The occurrence comes a day after China warned the Philippines against further "provocations" at an atoll in the South China Sea, saying such acts had violated Chinese territorial sovereignty, contravened international law and disrupted regional peace and stability.

'Propaganda'

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. however on Tuesday said the report of  China Coast Guard (CCG) that it drove away a Philippine Navy vessel around Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc) is not true.

“Propaganda ng Chinese iyan. It's not true. There is no truth. If ever kung may barko tayo doon, hindi tayo palalayasin,” Brawner told reporters.

(That is a propaganda of the Chinese. It’s not true. There is no truth. If ever we have a vessel there, they cannot drive us away.)

“Hindi tayo papayag na palalayasin (We will not allow them to drive us away)...exclusive economic zone. It is our duty, it is our right to make sure that our fishermen can fish in our economic zone,” he added.

Brawner said the AFP conducted verification on CCG's report since Tuesday morning but it turned out to be negative.

The Philippine Coast Guard earlier said the government is aiming to enter the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal (also known as Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal) after it removed the floating barrier placed by China in the area.

After the 2012 standoff between the Philippine and China in Scarborough Shoal, Chinese vessels guarded the lagoon and Filipino ships and fishing boats could not enter the area.

An arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, which invalidated China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea, ruled in 2016 that no country can claim sovereign rights over the shoal, saying it is a traditional fishing ground for Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen.

It also ruled that Beijing violated the rights of Filipinos, who were blocked by Chinese Coast Guard from fishing in the disputed shoal off northwestern Philippines.

China has refused to recognize the ruling. —Reuters/KG/RSJ, GMA Integrated News

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