MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - There has been no decision yet if the Philippines will redeploy its vessels back to Scarborough Shoal despite reports that Chinese vessels were seen in Philippine waters.
But Malacañang said the Philippines would “not abdicate” its sovereign rights over its territory and is hopeful that the territorial dispute would be resolved through peaceful means.
“Are we going to allow vessels back to Scarborough Shoal? That’s still being discussed. In no way do we, however, abdicate our sovereign rights over Scarborough Shoal because it is part of our exclusive economic zone and that’s very important for us, both domestically and internationally,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
Despite the reported presence of Chinese vessels in Philippine waters, Lacierda believes that the situation has not worsened.
“I think it has not worsened. There were instances, for instance, the vessels have withdrawn from Scarborough Shoal. They are back… Obviously, China has not taken any action—provocative action in terms of military action. And so, since there has been no military action, we are always hopeful that a peaceful resolution will be maintained by both parties,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda pointed out the other aspects in the relationship between the two countries, including trade, and expressed confidence that the dispute will be resolved peacefully.
“We are hoping that our several levels of exchanges would continue to help promote a harmonious relationship with the Philippines notwithstanding our differences in Scarborough Shoal,” Lacierda said.
“Both countries have manifested a peaceful resolution to the differences. We are hopeful, again, we are always hopeful that we can arrive at a peaceful resolution,” he added.
The Philippines has already filed a diplomatic protest against China’s establishment of Sansha City that claims jurisdiction over island groups in the South China Sea including the Nansha or Kalayaan Group of Islands.
“…Establishment and jurisdiction of Sansha City violates Philippine territorial sovereignty over the Kalayaan island group also known as the Spratly island[s]. Kalayaan Island Group is covered under RA 9522 on archipelagic baseline of the Philippines,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a text message read by Lacierda.