MANILA, Philippines – Will the Philippines redeploy its government vessels to the Scarborough Shoal?
That depends on whether the Philippine government still sees Chinese vessels in the area, President Benigno Aquino III told reporters Wednesday, June 20. Once the weather improves, the government will have an aircract fly over the Scarborough Shoal to check this, Aquino said.
“If there's a presence in our territorial waters, then we will redeploy. But if there is no other presence, there's no need to deploy, and they can go back to their normal (task) of safeguarding... our coastlines,” the President explained.
Aquino said the government was supposed to do the overflight Tuesday, June 19, but inclement weather prevented this.
The President also noted it is physically “impossible” to keep Philippine vessels permanently in Scarborough Shoal. He cited instances of bad weather that recently forced the government to pull out its ships. Last Sunday, during the height of Typhoon Gutchol, the government pulled out the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine Coast Guard vessels from the shoal.
“That's why I have to order them back,” Aquino said.
Conflicting statements have recently marred negotiations between the Philippines and China on Scarborough Shoal, with both countries contradicting each other's claims on the pullout of ships. (Read: Is China pulling out of Scarborough?)
The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is firm both countries agreed on a pullout.
China, however, has questioned the Philippines' claim. — Rappler.com
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Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.