Chinese fishermen go scot-free?

by Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 13 2012 06:35 PM | Updated as of Apr 15 2012 09:14 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Seven of the 12 Chinese fishing vessels who made their way to Scarborough shoal last Sunday appear to have gotten away with poaching in Philippine territory.

Philippine Coast Guard Lt. Commander Algier Ricafrente told ABS-CBN News that while there were initially 12 Chinese fishing vessels last Sunday (not 8 as earlier reported), the number of Chinese fishing vessels spotted on Friday was down to 5.

The circumstances under which they fled remain unclear.

The Philippines and China have been locked in a stand-off since Sunday after the Philippine Navy discovered Chinese fishing vessels anchored on Scarborough shoal.

The Chinese boats had a large haul of corals, giant clams and live sharks.

The country's biggest warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, was initially deployed as authorities prepared to arrest the fishermen, but 2 Chinese vessels appeared, further escalating the tension.

Diplomatic protests were then filed by China and the Philippines, but on Thursday, the Philippine Navy pulled out its ship and replaced it with a civilian boat from the Philippine Coast Guard.

China deployed a third vessel to the disputed territory.

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday announced  the Philippines and China have agreed to "set aside" their respective displomatic protests to find a peaceful resolution to the problem.

It also revealed China had recalled its third vessel.

However, it is unclear if this has helped ease the tension in the area as the Philippines still has one boat in Scarborough shoal, and China has 2 vessels.