2012-04-12 (China Military News cited from CNN) — The Philippines said Wednesday that its largest naval vessel is engaged in a standoff with two Chinese maritime surveillance ships in a remote lagoon in the South China Sea.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said the country’s navy had sent the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a 378-foot cutter, to the area of Scarborough Shoal on Sunday after surveillance aircraft spotted eight Chinese fishing boats anchored inside the lagoon.
China and the Philippines both claim that Scarborough Shoal, about 200 kilometers west of the Philippine mainland, is “an integral part” of their territory.
A boarding team from the Gregorio del Pilar went to inspect the Chinese fishing boats Tuesday morning and found “large amounts of illegally collected corals, giant clams and live sharks” inside one of the boats, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Later Tuesday, the Gregorio del Pilar reported that the two Chinese surveillance ships had arrived and taken up a position at the mouth of the lagoon, blocking the way to the fishing boats and “preventing the arrest” of the fishermen. The situation remained the same Wednesday morning, the Philippine statement said.
The Philippine foreign minister, Albert Del Rosario, is seeking a “diplomatic solution” to the situation with China, the statement said.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila has complained to the Philippine authorities about “the harassment of Chinese fishermen,” China’s official news agency reported Wednesday.