MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang reiterated that the Philippines has done nothing to provoke tensions with China over the territorial dispute involving Scarborough shoal, saying that the country wants to exhaust all diplomatic means to resolve the issue.
"There is nothing provocative that we have done in the area so I don't ascribe to the statement that we are provoking or escalating tensions in the Panatag shoal," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said, reacting to an allegation from the Chinese side that the Philippines has been provoking tensions in the area.
The Palace also refuted reports that the Chinese has blocked Filipino fishermen from reaching the Scarborough shoal.
Lacierda said he has spoken to Coast Guard chief Edmund Tan who said that no such incident took place.
"Kausap ko si [Coast Guard commandant] Edmund Tan, walang ganoong situation. The Filipino fishermen are able to fish in Panatag shoal," he said.
He also said that the number of Chinese vessels is also less than what was reported in the news.
Quoting Tan, Lacierda said China only has 11 vessels in the area (comprised of 7 fishing vessels, 2 Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) vessels, and 2 "maritime vessels.") The Philippines has 7 vessels (comprised of 5 fishing vessels, 1 Coast Guard vessel and 1 BFAR vessel).
Lacierda maintained that it is still best to bring the territorial conflict before an international arbitration body.