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Philippines Warship, Chinese Vessels in Standoff

Philippine Navy flag officer-in-command vice admiral Alexander Pama presents to the media an undated file photo of a Chinese surveillance ship which blocked a Philippine Navy ship from arresting Chinese fishermen, April 11, 2012.
Philippine Navy flag officer-in-command vice admiral Alexander Pama presents to the media an undated file photo of a Chinese surveillance ship which blocked a Philippine Navy ship from arresting Chinese fishermen, April 11, 2012.
Simone Orendain

A Philippine naval ship, two Chinese vessels and at least eight fishing boats are in a standoff near a shoal in the South China Sea that the Philippines says is well within its territory.   However, China says the fishermen are in its sovereign waters. Both sides say they are trying to come to a diplomatic solution.

Illegal poaching discovered

The Philippine Navy says in recent days its patrol ship discovered illegal poaching by Chinese fishermen in waters off of Scarborough shoal,  230 kilometers west Zambales, Philippines. The country argues that is well within the 370 kilometer exclusive economic zone designated by international law.

The head of the navy says officers went on board eight boats and found coral, large clams and live sharks which are listed as endangered by the Philippines. He says they were not able to arrest the fishermen because two Chinese government boats arrived and positioned themselves between the fishing boats and the Philippine patrol ship.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario summoned China’s ambassador and says he reiterated the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states a country has sovereignty over waters that are 370 kilometers from its coastline. He says their first round of talks hit an impasse. “I mentioned that, if the Philippines is challenged, we are prepared to secure our sovereignty,” he said.

China claims sovereignty over practically the entire South China Sea, based on a centuries old map. Apart from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have partial or entire claims in the sea, which has abundant waters, potential vast reserves of oil and natural gas and some of the most highly traveled sea lanes.

In the past year, the Philippines has complained of numerous run-ins with China on the South China Sea. China maintains its historical claim.

China says law enforcement activities a violation

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Liu Weimin, told a briefing Wednesday that China has “launched solemn representations” with the Philippines about the incident on the shoal locally named Huangyan.

He says the attempt by the Philippines to carry out the so-called law enforcement activities in waters off of Huangyan Island is in violation of Chinese sovereignty as well as the consensus between the two countries to maintain peace and stability of the South China Sea.

In a statement, the Chinese ambassador’s office urged the Philippines to stop what it called illegal activities by the Navy and demanded its ship to leave the area.

Vessels stalled

The U.S.-built Gregorio Del Pilar, positioned at the mouth of the lagoon, continues to pen-in the two Chinese government ships and the fishing boats. The navy says nothing has been taken off the boats. Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard says it will deploy a patrol boat to keep watch over the Naval ship, which is the Philippines one and only warship.

Del Rosario says he is confident the situation will not escalate into armed conflict. He pointed out the solid economic partnership the Philippines has with China and both countries’ commitment to building friendly relations.

Three weeks ago the Philippines launched a two-year cultural exchange with China that is intended to help solidify friendly relations between the two countries. Beijing’s own launch was Wednesday.

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by: @Ji
April 12, 2012 11:17 PM
Will China return Southern China & all nearby waters to Vietnam then? Colonisation was things of the past,China can't go on doing what their ancestors did by seizing lands from their neighbours & call them your own.Thanks to America you still have the land called China.So show gratitude & respect your neighbours' sovereignty & stop making stupid,irrational claims


by: Jj
April 12, 2012 5:25 PM
@Passer-by The Falklands Island before the Argentinian Junta invaded it, was already set to be returned to Argentina in 50 years time, like Hong Kong being returned to China from the British. Whether Britain will return the Falklands back to Argentina for the time being is uncertain but if the decolonization of the islands off Brazil's coast and Chile's coast & elsewhere in S.A. by the British is any indication, the British will one day return the Falklands to the Argies.


by: China's historical claim is a joke
April 12, 2012 11:34 AM
Taiwan is just off the east coast of China & did not become part of the Qing Dynasty until 1683.In principle Taiwan was transferred over to China at the collapse of Qing Dynasty in 1911.Simply speaking,Chinese had not been a sea-faring nation & their navy (if they had one) had never conquered any offshore territories,like Scarborough Shoal.By rights,Taiwan should be a Japanese territory because it was ceded to the Japanese in 1895


by: China on the war path like the Third Reich
April 12, 2012 11:13 AM
In historical times all these lands & seas never belonged to China anyway.Huang:What a load of rubbish about China claiming its ancestral property.China is realising its imperial ambitions like Imperial Japan & Nazi Germany,and it is going to lose this war.Russia,America,India & Japan wouldn't let China have its way like the Third Reich in WW2


by: Mr. USA
April 12, 2012 8:43 AM
The late afternoon sun? LOL tell that to the chinese who's building up their navy for war. 200 miles not proof? you must be really under propaganda, because those are UN accepted sovereignty rules which the rest of the world abides to, oh wait i forgot, communist china do not follow international rules. Look how far those islands are from China. Ancient ownership? LOL they sound like Japan prior to world war II. absolute power corrupts absolutely = China's revenge = short lived.


by: Mr Malaysia
April 12, 2012 6:56 AM
To Mr USA. The USA is like the late afternoon sun. The aircraft carriers will soon be obsolete. Bring them in and see what happens.


by: pinoy
April 12, 2012 4:47 AM
the philippines has a warship?1? lol nice...


by: passer-by
April 12, 2012 4:24 AM
200 miles is not necessarily a proof that the area belong to the Philipines.

Falkland islands are near Argentina, yet it is still occupied by UK.


by: Mr. USA
April 12, 2012 4:18 AM
To all of you with pro-china comments, why don't you look at the map. The Spratly's and the Panatag isalnds belong to the Philippines. The Chinese navy is bullying its way in international waters and claiming ownership of islands belonging to countries with weak navy. I hope the US Navy goes in to show the chinese who the real boss is.


by: Pinoy ako
April 12, 2012 3:51 AM
We should respect each country's sovereignity. These waters are within the Philippines 200 mile radius exclusive economic zone designated by int'l law . What's up w/ the poaching activities.

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