DFA: China keeps presence at Scarborough

Posted at 08/27/2012 9:18 PM | Updated as of 08/28/2012 8:27 AM

PNoy still hasn't ordered ships to return near disputed shoal

MANILA, Philippines - China has maintained its naval presence in waters of the disputed Scarborough Shoal just off Zambales province, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Monday.

Three Chinese maritime surveillance ships were spotted in the area, according to the last surveillance report received 2 weeks ago by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), del Rosario said in an interview with radio dzMM.

"These are Chinese maritime surveillance vessels equivalent to our Coast Guard that are outside of the shoal," he said.

Scarborough Shoal, which is called Panatag and Bajo de Masinloc by the Philippines and Huangyan by China, triggered a standoff between the two countries in April.

The atoll is being claimed by the two countries.

"The Chinese maintain a presence outside the Bajo de Masinloc," del Rosario said.

"Wala ho kaming nakitang -- doon sa report ho -- wala ho kaming nakitang fishing vessels [We did not see--based on the report--we did not see any fishing vessels]," he said.

The DFA chief said bad weather could be preventing China from deploying more ships to the area.

"Masama ang weather doon ngayon. I think purposely, both countries are trying to limit the exposure of vessels to the bad weather," he said.

He added that no Philippine ship is in the shoal's waters.

"We don't have a persence there right now," he said. "The President is contemplating on when we will resume our presence there."

Del Rosario, who was in China Sunday to visit ailing Philippine Ambassador Sonia Brady, said he also met with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi.

"Noong bumisita po kami sa Beijing,  we took the opportunity to meet with the foreign minister of China and we had actually a  very positive meeting," he said.

"We discussed in very broad strokes the need to find ways to be back on track in terms of the bilaterial relations, which we agreed would be moved forward while we (discuss) contentious issues with them separately like the West Philippine Sea," he added.

He mentioned an agreement approved by President Benigno Aquino and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, on improving Beijing-Manila relations.

"We need to get back on track," del Rosario said.

He said he invited Yang to visit the Philippines.

"He said he will look for a convenient date," the DFA chief said. "He said he will try too see when he will come."