Chinese ships back in Panatag Shoal

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Two Chinese maritime surveillance ships were sighted once again in the vicinity of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a few days after the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said the vessels from China have left the disputed area.

Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a press briefing on Monday that the Philippine Navy confirmed the presence of two CMS vessels. CMS ships are equivalent to the vessels used by the PCG.

“They [Chinese ships] have been intruding into the area for some time now. Our position remains that Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag Shoal) is an integral part of Philippine territory and China should respect our maritime entitlements,” he said.

Hernandez said no Chinese vessels were spotted in the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, where a fleet of Chinese fishing vessels earlier intruded.

“We believe they come and go in the area [Ayungin Shoal],” he told reporters.

However, the Philippines is not likely to file a note verbale against China.

“We choose when it is appropriate. It is also important to know that other actions are being taken by the Philippine side together with our partners in the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and through legal track like the arbitral proceedings, which we hope to proceed as soon as possible,” he said.

The Philippines on January 22 this year brought before an arbitral tribunal under the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos) its maritime and territorial disputes with China.

Hernandez said the Philippine government is still awaiting word from Itlos regarding the presentation of its case before the five-member tribunal.

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