MANILA, Philippines – After pulling out ships from the Scarborough Shoal due to bad weather, the government is evaluating whether or not to redeploy them back to the disputed area.
Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview on Sunday, June 17, that “Once the weather improves according to Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario, there will be a reevaluation of the situation.”
Particular issues to be discussed in the evaluation, Valte said, will be referred to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). “[The talking points] will depend what sort of presence you need in that area. It’s not the only part of our coastline we need to be monitoring,” she said.
At least 5 agencies will be involved in the evaluation, including:
- the Office of the President
- Department of Foreign Affairs
- Department of National Defense
- Armed Forces of the Philippines
- Philippine Coast Guard
President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the pullout of the Philippines’ two government ships from the disputed Scarborough Shoal as typhoon Butchoy battered the eastern part of the country and enhanced the southwest monsoon that brought rain to most parts of the country.
Valte claims that this pullout has nothing to do with the tension between the Philippine and China on the disputed area. “The reason for the pullout was to make sure the Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources personnel will not be in danger. There’s nothing else to that but the safety of PCG and BFAR personnel,” Valte said.
The two Philippine government vessels — one from the Philippine Coast Guard and another from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources — have been in Scarborough Shoal for most of the time since a standoff between the two countries began in April.
Valte also said that the government is now expecting China to pull out its ships as well from the disputed territory. “Secretary Del Rosario already said there’s an arrangement to that effect, that’s what we’re waiting for,” she said.
On Friday, June 15, Del Rosario said China promised to pull out its vessels from the lagoon in Scarborough Shoal “a couple of days ago,” according to a report on the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“The Chinese still have vessels in the lagoon and we’re waiting for them to remove those vessels from that area,” Del Rosario said. – Rappler.com