MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government will not leave Scarborough Shoal defenseless despite pulling out its biggest warship from the area for refueling.
In an interview with ANC, Navy commander Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said a Philippine Coast Guard search and rescue vessel is now in the area to replace BRP Gregorio del Pilar. “It should be leaving or have left the area already.”
He said the Navy vessel will have to refuel and replace stocks, such as food, for its men on board.
He said the instruction “is to remain there and continue what we’ve started” even as the executive department moves to resolve the standoff with China via diplomatic means.
Pama said authorities are still hoping that the issue will be resolved peacefully.
He said he does not see any signs of any weapons from the Chinese side, “and we’re also not showing anything that could be misinterpreted.”
The latest dispute began last Sunday. The Philippine Navy, through its newly-commissioned BRP Gregorio del Pilar, found eight fishing boats in the area and accused them of fishing illegally.
Two Chinese Marine Surveillance Ships later barricaded the boats, saying the Philippine Navy was harassing its citizens.
China and Philippines are the only countries with competing claims over Scarborough Shoal, which is near Zambales province.
The disputed waters in the whole South China Sea or West Philippine Sea are believed to be rich in resources, Aside from the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims in the South China Sea.
Both China and the Philippines have already filed diplomatic protests over the standoff in Scarborough Shoal.