China pulls out boats from Scarborough

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 19 2012 02:27 AM | Updated as of Jun 20 2012 03:17 PM

Manila, Philippines -  Following a similar move by the Philippines, China pulled out its fishing boats from Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal last Sunday due to “inclement” weather.

The Chinese government said a rescue vessel was sent to the shoal to ensure the safety of Chinese fishermen who were caught in a typhoon.

An announcement by the China Rescue and Salvage of the Ministry of Transport dated June 17 and posted on the website of the Chinese embassy in Manila said, “Due to the inclement weather and strong tide in the Huangyan Island waters, in order to help Chinese fishermen and fishing boats pull out safely for shelter, Nanhaijiu-115 vessel has set out to the area to provide necessary assistance.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday the announcement of a pullout of Chinese fishing vessels is consistent with the agreement on the withdrawal of all ships from the Panatag lagoon.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez, however, told The STAR they still have to validate the withdrawal of the Chinese vessels.

President Aquino earlier ordered two Philippine ships to pull out of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as typhoon “Butchoy” approached the country.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Saturday the President ordered a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) ship to return to port due to increasing bad weather.

He said that “when weather improves, a re-evaluation will be made.”

The Philippine government earlier said it is ready to help the Chinese fishermen get out of Panatag Shoal should they experience danger due to inclement weather.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda yesterday said that

China, based on reports, was happy about the pullout and welcomed the Philippine government’s directive to move back the vessels due to the inclement weather condition.

In a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, “We hope the situation will continue to ease, and we’ll be able to restore bilateral cooperation. We hope the Philippines can exercise restraint.”

Lacierda said with or without physical presence in the area, the Philippines would maintain its claim in Panatag Shoal as part of the country’s exclusive economic zone.

The Philippine vessels were deployed at Panatag Shoal since April following a stand off between the Philippines and China over conflicting territorial claims.

The Chinese vessels had blocked Philippine authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen found poaching and illegally harvesting endangered marine species like giant clams and sharks in the area.

Good investment site

Meanwhile, despite the apparent conflict between China and the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea, a Filipino lawyer encouraged investors from China and nearby countries to continue investing in the Philippines, especially since foreign businessmen here are covered by laws protecting contracts and the bank secrecy law.

During a recent economic forum in Shanghai, Tranquil Salvador III noted that the Philippines remains a good place for foreign investors, citing that the country ranked 107th out of 179 countries in the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom.

In the Ease of Doing Business Index, Salvador said the Philippines ranked 133rd out of 183 countries in protecting investors, 112th in terms of enforcing contracts and 136th in overall ease of doing business.

Speaking before members of the academe in the recent sub-legal forum of the Shanghai Economic Forum, Salvador pointed out that there are many laws that protect foreign investors in the country.

Salvador told The STAR that participants in the forum came from Fudan University in China, as well as members of the academe from India, Korea, United States, Japan, Canada and Russia. – With Aurea Calica, Christina Mendez