MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario remained tight-lipped about negotiations on the ongoing standoff between the Philippine Navy and Chinese ships, but described it as a “work in progress.”
“I think we’re moving forward, so that’s encouraging. But we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle in there yet,” Del Rosario told reporters Thursday, April 12.
The standoff is taking place over the disputed Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, which the Philippines and China both claim as theirs. This happened after the Philippine Navy monitored 10 Chinese ships stationed there.
Del Rosario said the government is in “deep discussion” on this with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing.
He also denied rumors the Philippine and Chinese governments have agreed to no longer send military assets to the area. “But I think we’re trying our best to keep from increasing tension,” he said.
Del Rosario, who wil leave for the United States for an official function Sunday, April 15, hopes for an end to negotiations before the weekend. “We’re approaching that negotiation table as friends, which we are, so (we’re) very hopeful,” the Secretary added.
One of the options the government is exploring, Del Rosario said, is for the Philippines to implement the arrest order on the Chinese fishermen, who entered the Scarborough Shoal, which the Philippines claims to be part of its territory.
“We are prepared to secure our sovereignty,” Del Rosario earlier said.
President Benigno Aquino III also expressed hope the impasse between Manila and Beijing will reach a diplomatic resolution since both countries signed the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea.
In this standoff, the Philippines has deployed its fastest ship – BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which Newsbreak featured in a previous story. – Rappler.com