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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
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: Software Support Analyst

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a career in custome...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Engineer - Managed Services Provider

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Eng...

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot