Philippines warship in stand-off with China

 

The Philippines said today its largest warship was engaged in a tense stand-off with Chinese surveillance vessels at a disputed South China Sea shoal.

The confrontation came after the ship attempted to arrest Chinese fishermen, but was blocked by the surveillance craft, the government said.

Foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario summoned Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing to resolve the dangerous impasse diplomatically.

Mr Del Rosario's office said the Scarborough Shoal "is an integral part of Philippine territory" and Filipino authorities would assert sovereignty over the offshore area.

The shoal lies off the north-western Philippine province of Zambales. China and the Philippines have been disputing ownership of the shoal, in addition to the Spratly Islands and other areas in the South China Sea.

Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the situation at the shoal "has not changed as of this morning. There's a stand-off".

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that on Sunday, a Philippine navy surveillance plane sighted eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in a lagoon at Scarborough, prompting the military to deploy its largest warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which was recently acquired from the United States.

Yesterday Filipino sailors from the warship boarded the Chinese vessels for an inspection, discovering large amounts of illegally collected corals, giant clams and live sharks inside the first boat, the department said.

Two Chinese maritime surveillance ships, identified as Zhonggou Haijian 75 and Zhonggou Haijian 84, later approached and positioned themselves between the Philippine warship and the Chinese fishing vessels "thus preventing the arrests of the erring Chinese fishermen", the statement said.

Mr Del Rosario protested to Ms Ma and told her that the Philippine navy would enforce Philippine laws, according to his office.

The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately comment.

Chinese officials, who refer to Scarborough Shoal as Huangyan Island, have in the past asserted Chinese sovereignty over the area.

The Philippines refers to the shoal, a rich fishing ground, as Panatag.

Last year the Philippines accused Chinese vessels of intruding into other parts of what it considers Philippine territory near the South China Sea, including the Spratlys. China has regularly dismissed the protests, saying Beijing has indisputable sovereignty over those areas on historical grounds.

The Spratly Islands south of Scarborough Shoal are claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. The chain of barren islands, reefs and coral outcrops are believed to be in rich in oil and gas and the overlapping claims have long been feared as Asia's next flashpoint for armed conflict.

The United States, a defence-treaty ally of the Philippines, last year provided the Philippine navy with a refurbished coastguard cutter as part of efforts to shore up its naval defences.

Washington has insisted it takes no sides in the territorial dispute but says it should be solved peacefully. China has balked at what it considered a US interference in the region.

The disputes over the resource-rich Spratlys have settled into an uneasy stand-off since the last major clash involving China and Vietnam killed more than 70 Vietnamese sailors in 1988.

Faced with China's formidable military, the Philippines and Vietnam have forged closer ties.

Aside from military accords, the two countries agreed to set up a hotline between their coastguards and maritime police to monitor maritime incidents, such as piracy and incursions into their territorial waters.

Philippine navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said Philippine and Vietnamese sailors agreed to play football and basketball matches in the islands they occupy in the Spratlys in a novel way to build trust in the contested region.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test