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Philippines-China standoff over Scarborough Shoals continues


MANILA — The country’s naval force remains on stand-by even as the Scarborough Shoals maritime stand-off between China and the country entered on Monday its seventh day.
Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-charge Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said the PN will continue performing its mandate and comply with instructions given by higher authorities.
“The navy is basically on standby on whatever instructions will be given to us by higher leadership,” Pama stressed.
The PN chief said that BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) is still on alert even as it undergoes refueling and provisioning at Poro Point, La Union.
He also declined to comment on the possibility of using force to dislodge the two remaining Chinese surveillance ships at Scarborough Shoals, adding that such discussions are within the realm of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
But despite this announcement, the PN chief is hoping that both parties will continue to work to de-escalate the situation.
The Northern Luzon Command,meanwhile,  said that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has deployed another ship, the BRP EDSA DOS (SAR-002), to keep watch over the two Chinese surveillance vessels still anchored off Scarborough Shoal.
Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara, Northern Luzon Command chief, said BRP EDSA DOS arrived at the disputed territory around 7 a.m. Monday.
He added that the PCG ship was sent from its Manila South Harbor base to relieve BRP Pampanga (SAR-003) as the latter ship is in need of provisioning having been on patrol for three days.
Alcantara stressed that the BRP Pampanga is now on its way to PCG headquarters in Manila for resupply.
He added that BRP EDSA DOS is now on station to keep watch on Chinese maritime surveillance ships — Zhonggou Haijian 75 and Zhonggou Haijan 84.
The Northern Luzon Command chief describes the situation at the disputed waters as stable, adding that Filipino fishermen are able to go in and out of the area and carry on with their business without being harassed.
BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, the country’s newest frigate, was deployed to the area after a Philippine Navy observation plane spotted eight to 10 Chinese fishing vessels fishing off the area last April 8.
BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, which is armed with a 76mm Otto Melara cannon besides six small caliber quick-firing auto cannons, arrived at the disputed shoals 6:20 a.m. on April 10.
The ship’s crew confirmed the presence of the Chinese vessels and inspections revealed that the cargo holds the fishing vessels crammed with corals, giant clams, and live sharks.
But before the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar could take custody of the Chinese crewmen, two Chinese maritime surveillance ships, arrived on the scene two hours later and contacted the skipper of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar informing him he has strayed into the Chinese territorial waters and ordered him to leave immediately.
But the commanding officer of the Filipino frigate, Capt. Alberto Cruz, stood his ground by informing the skippers of the two intruding Chinese vessels that the area is well within the country’s exclusive economic zone and is an integral part of the Philippine territory.

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