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14 Chinese vessels now at Panatag Shoal, says AFP

/ 02:18 AM May 03, 2012

Map showing the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (south China Sea), including the Spratlys Islands and Scarborough Shoal. AFP

There are now 14 Chinese ships in Panatag Shoal—four big maritime ships and 10 fishing boats, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Wednesday.

Only a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel MCS 3008 and the BRP Edsa II, a Coast Guard search and rescue vessel (SARV) 002, represent Philippine sovereignty over the area, known internationally as Scarborough Shoal, according to the AFP.

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As of Monday night, the two ships had monitored 14 Chinese vessels in the area, according to the AFP’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom).

They were  the Chinese Maritime Surveillance (CMS) vessels 71, 75 and 81 and the Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) 310, touted to be China’s most modern and most powerful maritime ship.

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Seven Chinese fishing vessels and three smaller boats were “still sighted inside the Scarborough Shoal as of 8 p.m. May 1,” according to the Nolcom.

The Nolcom reported that Edsa II was 1.4 nautical miles (2.52 kilometers) northeast off the shoal’s South Rock.

The CMS 71 was 13.6 nautical miles (24.4 km) away from Edsa II; the CMS 81, 11.9 nautical miles (21.42 km) away; and the CMS 75, only 3.3 nautical miles (5.94 km) away.

China’s FLEC 310 was just 8.3 nautical miles (14.94 km) away from Edsa II.

Nolcom did not report any Filipino fishing vessels in the area.

Lieutenant General Anthony Alcantara, Nolcom chief, has ordered the continuous monitoring of the situation. He said his command was determined to “protect (the country’s) territorial integrity,” said Captain Aurelio Kigis, the command spokesperson.

The Philippines stood its ground even as the standoff entered its fourth week in the face of China’s refusal to respect the Philippines’ sovereign right to Panatag Shoal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

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On April 28, the FLEC 310 harassed the smaller Edsa II and the BRP Pampanga, another Coast Guard SARV 003.

No reaction to bullying

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the FLEC 310 was “speeding” as it approached the two Philippine ships at around 20 knots and then veered away, generating a two-meter wave.

The Edsa II was at the time relieving the Pampanga and the two vessels did not react to the bullying by the Chinese ship, the DFA said.

The standoff started on April 10 when two Chinese surveillance ships stopped the Philippine Navy from inspecting illegally poached marine life from eight Chinese fishing boats.

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TAGS: AFP, China, Foreign affairs, International relations, maritime dispute, Military, Panatag Shoal, Philippines, Scarborough Shoal, territorial dispute
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