Chinese ships still guarding Panatag

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Aerial surveillance shows Chinese Coast Guard ships are still guarding the disputed Scarborough Shoal, but Filipinos are seen fishing there “unmolested” for the first time in years, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Lorenzana on Sunday said the return of Filipino fishermen to the shoal was “a most welcome development.”

Malacañang last night described as “good development” reports that Filipino fishermen had been allowed to freely enter and fish in the contested Panatag Shoal.

“The Palace welcomes the good development for our fishermen at the Panatag Shoal,” Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a text message to reporters.

Senators also welcomed the development but an opposition lawmaker in the House of Representatives wanted Malacañang to disclose what President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping had discussed about Scarborough Shoal that allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the rich fishing ground after years of being driven away by the Chinese Coast Guard.

A Philippine Navy plane spotted four Chinese Coast Guard ships, contradicting an initial report that the Chinese have left, according to the defense secretary.

A group of Filipino fishermen recently returned from Scarborough with a bountiful catch. Fisherman Gila Bauya said the Chinese Coast Guard was there but ignored his group’s presence.

CHINESE PRESENCE A Chinese Coast Guard ship is seen near the disputed Scarborough Shoal in this aerial photo provided by the AsiaMaritime Transparency Initiative.
CHINESE PRESENCE A Chinese Coast Guard ship is seen near the disputed Scarborough Shoal in this aerial photo provided by the AsiaMaritime Transparency Initiative.

China seized Scarborough (known locally as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc) in 2012 after a two-month standoff with Philippine vessels. It had since driven away Filipino fishermen from the area, which is just 230 kilometers off Masinloc, Zambales.

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/148357/chinese-ships-still-guarding-panatag#ixzz4P18NbDX2

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