‘A bit calm’ now in Scarborough, says DFA

Posted at 04/30/12 7:18 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs said the situation at the Bajo de Masinloc, or Scarborough Shoal, is "a bit calm" now after a “bullying” incident over the weekend.

Nonetheless, the Philippines will still raise with China the alleged bullying of Filipino ships by Chinese vessels.

DFA Spokesman Raul Hernandez reported there are ten Chinese vessels still in the area, while the Philippines has five.

“Today, no untoward incident has been reported and the situation there is a bit calm. Yes, there's still a standoff because the Chinese ships are still there and they have not left the area, they have not left our territory,” he said.

On Saturday, a Chinese vessel sped past the two coast guard ships, creating waves and buffeting the ships.

Hernandez said the incident was a violation of international regulations for preventing collisions of ships at sea.

"We don't want that incident to happen again. We will bring this up to the Chinese authorities…either verbally or diplomatic note," he said.

Meanwhile, he said the government has not yet received the Chinese government's reported rejection of a Philippine invitation to resolve the contention over the Bajo de Masinloc before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). "We will be waiting for their formal reply. We have not received a formal reply to our formal invitation.”

Nevertheless, Hernandez said the government will continue exploring other peaceful solutions, such as arbitration and conciliation. “We’re still looking for diplomatic solutions to the issue. Both governments have committed to a diplomatic track, we’re very confident we will be able to find a diplomatic solution."

Hernandez added that any joint development with China should be on disputed waters and not on territories clearly within the Philippines.

Filipinos are free to fish

Hernandez said there are no orders for Filipino fishermen to steer clear of the area. “That's our territory, they can go and fish there.”

Meanwhile, he could not provide details yet on the meeting of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

"Maybe we will have results of the meeting tomorrow. It's actually a very comprehensive agenda," Hernandez said.

Among the items in the agenda are economic development, defense and security cooperation, maritime security and humanitarian assistance.

He said the Philippines has had a long standing agenda of maximizing the mutual defense treaty with the US. "We have been asking for the help of our allies, including the US, in building our minimum credible defense posture. Part of this was the delivery of a Hamilton class cutter by the US to the Philippine Navy last year, with another one to be delivered later this year.”

He insisted this is not related to the situation at the West Philippine Sea.