MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is not yet asking the help of the United States in its territorial dispute with China, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Friday.
“We have not come to that point. We are patrolling our seas to ourselves. We have our Coast Guard vessels to patrol it. We have also our Phililippine Navy patrolling and surveillance,” DFA Spokesperson Raul Hernandez said.
Hernandez's statement was issued amid reports that China has sent its most advanced vessel to an undisclosed area in the South China Sea to beef up its patrol over the seas and flex anew its military muscle.
The English-language China Daily on Thursday reported that China’s “fastest fishery administration vessel” Yuzheng 310 left Guangzhou to cruise on the South China Sea.
The paper quoted an anonymous official from the South China Sea Fishery Bureau as saying: "This is aimed to better protect Chinese fishermen's rights and marine resources.”
Hernandez, however, said the Philippine government has yet to confirm the presence near the disputed territory, known as Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines.
Two Chinese vessels and the Philippine Coast Guard's BRP Edsa are still in the area. The M/Y Sarangani, a Philippine archeological research ship that was allegedly harassed by Chinese aircraft and ships, left the area on Wednesday.
The alleged harassment of the research ship by a Chinese aircraft had prompted another diplomatic protest from the Philippines.
Won't wait for Beijing
Hernandez said the DFA is also studying the possibility of bringing the dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) without China after the latter reportedly rejected the Philippines’ invitation to settle the dispute before an international forum.
“We are studying the possibility of bringing this to ITLOS, or to a dispute settlement mechanism under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) on a unilateral basis,” Hernandez said.
“We are preparing to go there alone if China will not want to join us.”
Nevertheless, Hernandez said the Philippines remains a friend of China despite the rising tension that has already entered its 10th day.
“We still consider them (China) as our friends, a solid partner in economic development,” he said in Filipino.