MANILA, Philippines - China is preventing Philippine ships from entering the Scarborough Shoal lagoon by blocking its entrance with a buoy and rope, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Thursday.
He said the Coast Guard has yet to decide whether to remove the buoy and rope in the atoll located just 124 nautical miles off Zambales.
"We still don't know what to do. Number one, there is an inclement weather and we cannot go there. We will let you know as soon as we get that decision," he said.
Gazmin, in a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, said the Coast Guard had been sending aircraft to the area to monitor the movement of Chinese ships.
"The last report I received from the Coast Guard is that they (Chinese) placed a rope at the entrance of the shoal but as of yesterday and today, there is no (updated) report because you know the prevailing inclement weather. Our Islander cannot fly," he said.
Two Chinese government ships -- a surveillance ship and a fisheries law enforcement command vessel -- were last seen at the shoal.
"There is a need for us to talk to reach a solution to this problem," he said.