MANILA, Philippines - Several Chinese ships have been seen again around Scarborough shoal, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Saturday.
Gazmin, in a text message to ANC, said the Chinese vessels were spotted by a Philippine Air Force plane that was deployed to conduct a reconnaissance mission over the disputed area.
He did not say how many Chinese ships are now at Scarborough.
President Benigno Aquino earlier said the government will redeploy ships to the shoal to counter the presence of foreign vessels.
Philippine ships were forced to pull out from the area last weekend due to bad weather.
"If there is a presence in our territorial waters, then we will redeploy. But if there is no other presence of other vessels that might impinge on our sovereignty, there is no need to deploy and they can go back to their normal routine of safeguarding-the Coast Guard for instance-our coastlines from… [the] wet season," Aquino told reporters.
"And endpoint nito, is there a need for our vessels to be there? That will be determined by the overfly to determine if there are things that we should be guarding. If there are none, we can go. We don't have to go back," he added.
President Aquino said it is "physically impossible" for the Philippines to permanently station vessels in the area.
"How do you position somebody 'pag very rough seas?" he said.
He said he would await the data that would come from the Air Force reconnaissance mission before deciding whether Philippine vessels would be sent back.
"The guidelines are very, very clear. 'Pag meron pang mag vessels doon na not ours, in our waters, we send back our ships… When you say reevaluate, dumating, nag-overfly ang ating aircraft, may nakita, wala. Pag walang nakita, anong need para ipadala doon?" he said. - reports from ANC and Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News