Philippines says tensions ease in China sea row
MANILA, Philippines—China and the Philippines have repositioned some ships stationed at a disputed South China Sea shoal, easing tensions that have been building up since April, the Philippine government said Tuesday.
Following bilateral consultations, China moved out two government ships from a lagoon at the centre of the rock formation called Scarborough Shoal, and a Philippine fisheries bureau vessel did the same, the foreign department said.
It is not clear when the consultations took place or when the three vessels maneuvred to their current positions.
Two Chinese vessels joined six other Chinese ships just outside the lagoon, while the Philippine vessel was now with a second Philippine ship stationed outside, added foreign department spokesman Raul Hernandez.
The coordinated pullback was a step in the right direction, President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
“This is an easing of tensions and we appreciate the gesture of both parties to de-escalate tension in Panatag Shoal,” Lacierda said, referring to the area by its local name.
The Philippines claims the shoal, which lies near the main Philippine island of Luzon, falls within its exclusive economic zone while China claims it, along with nearly all of the West Philippine (South China) Sea up to the coasts of Asian neighbors.
Chinese and Philippine government ships have been facing off around the Scarborough Shoal since April, when Chinese ships blocked Philippine vessels sent to arrest Chinese fishermen in the lagoon.
Hernandez said the reciprocal pullback left 30 Chinese fishing boats in the lagoon, adding there were no Filipino fishermen in the area.
The Philippines and China are continuing consultations to address the maritime dispute, he added.
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