MANILA, Philippines – Three Chinese ships are still in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal, in violation of an agreement that Philippine and Chinese ships should leave the shoal last June 4, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Thursday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Philippine and Chinese officials agreed that both sides should pull out ships from the shoal to defuse tension over disputing claims in the area.
He said the Philippines pulled out 1 ship last June 4 but China did not pull out theirs. An official at the Chinese Embassy in Manila later said that high winds had affected the scheduled pullout of Chinese ships.
“Ultimately, they pulled out some ships but they still have 3 ships in the vicinity as we speak. They never really left,” he said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.
Del Rosario said the Philippines has continued to ask Beijing to honor the agreement and pull out of the shoal. He noted that he does not know if China had sent fishing vessels to the area.
“We are continuing to ask them to honor our sovereignty, to respect our sovereignty and to respect our equality and on that score, we are asking them to pull out their ships as agreed upon. We don’t have any ships there,” he said.
The DFA chief also denied China’s claims that the Philippines is limiting its bilateral consultations. He said the Philippine government has had 36 consultations with China since April to come up with a peaceful resolution to the territorial row.
Del Rosario also cleared up a misunderstanding that there was a consensus among ASEAN members not to “internationalize” the territorial dispute over South China Sea.
He said the issue of Asian unity was being discussed when one of the participants in the ASEAN meet in Phnom Penh asked the group to consider that “internationalization is not good for relationships with China.”
“It was a proposal and it was not acted upon,” he said.
He said that after the meeting, Cambodia, which chaired the ASEAN summit, had translated the discussion into actual consensus. He said at least 2-3 countries had also agreed there was no consensus.
“To begin with, if we are not in it, there is no consensus,” he said.
He said even President Aquino emphasized the point that there was no consensus, which led to the striking out of the “no internationalization” clause.
Del Rosario said the issue of internationalization should be clarified further since China has a different definition of the term.
“Our take on internationalization, as put to us by China, is - I should not be talking to media. I should not be talking to the other claimants, talking multilaterally. I should not be talking to international partners like the US, Australia, Japan and we should be doing this bilaterally, only with China,” he said.
“Obviously that is not our position because our diplomatic tools are very limited and internationalization must remain a viable tool for us and we should be able to resort to using that tool when it is deemed necessary,” he added.