MANILA - The Navy is looking into reports about the presence of two Chinese warships in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, an area within the Philippines’ continental shelf but has been occupied by Chinese vessels since 2012.
“We are verifying the report, we are validating it from our side because the report came from the US 7th Fleet,” Col. Edgard Arevalo, commander of the Navy’s civil-military operations group, said yesterday.
Palace and defense officials kept mum on the reports, saying they would just let the country’s diplomats handle the issue.
“We’ll leave that to the Department of Foreign Affairs to comment on,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
Defense department spokesman Peter Galvez said the department has yet to receive an official report on the matter.
Other officials also declined to answer queries on the government’s possible response to China’s presence in the shoal, a popular fishing destination for local fishermen until Chinese ships occupied it two years ago.
Earlier, two missile-firing Chinese ships were spotted near the shoal by a helicopter of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet.
The warships – a guided-missile frigate and a guided-missile destroyer with bow numbers 572 and 170 – were detected by an MH-60 helicopter assigned to the American ship USS Blue Ridge.
“Chinese People’s Liberation Army vessels are seen from an MH-60 helicopter assigned to the USS Blue Ridge while conducting flight operations in support of the maritime security operations in the South China Sea,” said Cmdr. William Marks, US 7th Fleet public affairs officer.