MANILA, Philippines—No, the Philippines has not lost Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to China. In fact, the government is mulling over whether to remove the concrete blocks the Chinese have laid down at the site, Navy chief Vice Adm. Jose Luis Alano averred on Tuesday.
“The situation is being monitored as to developments there… the National Security Council is looking into it,” he said.
The removal of the concrete blocks that were discovered by the Philippine Navy a week ago remained under discussion by the government, Alano told reporters on the sidelines of the 7th Asean Navy Chiefs Meeting (ANCM) which the Philippines is hosting.
Asked if the country had lost Panatag to the Chinese after the latter installed 75 concrete blocks in the area, Alano was quick to say no.
As to what the Philippines was going to do about it, the Navy chief replied: “As of now that is being discussed. But I do not want to preempt the decision.”
Alano said the Philippine military was conducting “constant surveillance” of Panatag Shoal but he was not “at liberty” to discuss operational details.
It is strongly believed that the Chinese installed the concrete blocks to serve as the foundation for a permanent structure to be built at the shoal. China had done the same thing in portions of the Spratlys group of islands owned by the Philippines where there are now permanent Chinese structures.
The chiefs of the navies of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member countries gathered yesterday in Manila for a series of meetings that was formally opened by President Aquino.
The three-day meet, on the theme “Partnership for Peace and Prosperity, will highlight the need for strengthened cooperation among the Asean navies for peace, stability and progress” in the region, the Philippine Navy said in a statement.
Asked if the territorial disputes between some Asean nations and China would be discussed at the meetings, Alano said: “What we are discussing is ensuring that the Asean nations will strongly cooperate with each other with the common goal of establishing peace and stability in the region for the benefit and prosperity of everyone.”