Chinese militia vessels start pull out near Pag-asa Island – Mon Tulfo
MANILA, Philippines — China has started to pull out its militia vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea, Philippine special envoy to China Ramon Tulfo said.
“Some 100 Chinese fishing boats have been withdrawn from the waters off the Philippine-administered Pag-asa Island in the South China Sea, an emissary from the Chinese government told this columnist on June 4,” he wrote in his Manila Times column on Thursday.
Tulfo said this was China’s “initial gesture to win the trust and confidence of the Philippine government.”
“We want to send the message that we love your President,” he quoted the emissary as saying.
Tulfo said it was through this emissary that he was able to reach out to some Chinese officials for backdoor talks.
Based on his conversation with the emissary, who is in Manila for business, the remaining small fishing boats will be towed by bigger boats.
“Eventually, the Chinese emissary said, the fishing boats off Pag-asa ‘will disappear’,” Tulfo said.
Military officials contacted by INQUIRER.net have not yet responded to confirm Tulfo’s statements.
Tulfo said he was told by the emissary that the fishing boats were owned by the militia of the People’s Liberation Army of China.
He said he was also told that “the boats were not armed, but their sheer number was meant to intimidate an enemy ship.”
Observers and the Philippine military have earlier said the Chinese vessels were likely monitoring the ongoing upgrade of facilities in Pag-asa.
Last April, the Philippines filed a protest on the reported presence of a large number of Chinese vessels around the sandbars near Pag-asa, the only Philippine outpost with a civilian community.
It was earlier reported that dozens of Chinese fishing vessels have been staying near Pag-asa on a daily basis since January, which have accumulated to 275 boats in total for the first quarter.
Chinese vessels were also monitored close to other Philippine outposts like Panata and Kota.
Despite losing to a Philippine challenge in the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016, China insists it owns almost all of the South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of other claimants in the strategic waterway. West Philippine Sea refers to the part claimed by the Philippines.
Besides the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan also claim parts of the South China Sea. (Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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