MANILA, Philippines – The pullout of Philippine vessels from the disputed Scarborough Shoal was primarily for the safety of personnel from inclement weather and should not affect the country’s claim over the territory, Malacañang said Monday, June 18.
“The foremost consideration was primarily the safety of our Coast Guard personnel and our BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) personnel. That was made very, very clear,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters in a briefing in Malacañang.
President Aquino ordered the two vessels out of the shoal on Friday night, June 15.
Lacierda said the decision to pull out won’t affect the Philippines’ claim over the shoal, which China also says is part of its territory.
“You don’t need to assure them of anything, and certainly they responded positively to our decision to move back the vessels due to the weather condition,” he said.
Earlier, China said they are happy over the order to pull out the Philippine ships, saying it could “calm” the tensions.
“We hope that they will also protect their fishermen and also their personnel and do the necessary things to protect their citizens from the ravages of the storm,” Lacierda added.
A statement on the Chinese embassy’s website Monday said Beijing had deployed a vessel to help its fishermen pull out of the shoal as well due to bad weather and a strong tide. – Rappler.com
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