Lieutenant General Jessie Dellosa, the Chief of staff of the Philippine Armed Forces (AFP) claimed today that the situation in and around the disputed territory of Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island / Panatag Shoal) is showing signs of improvement.He was speaking to the journalists at Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the AFP. A diplomatic and military standoff has been ongoing in the region ever since this April, when the Philippine Navy (PN) expelled a group of Chinese fishermen for illegal poaching.
Benigno Aquino III, the current president of the Philippines had announced last week that his country will tone down its international diplomatic initiatives against the Chinese aggression over the Scarborough shoal, as a goodwill gesture. Both the Philippine Navy and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) had pulled out a number of warships and other vessels from the region last week, significantly reducing the tensions and lowering the possibility of an armed conflict between the two sides.
Today, the standoff is entering its third month, making it one of the most intense diplomatic fallouts between the Philippines and China. Aquino had instructed Albert del Rosario, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines to take necessary steps to resolve the issue peacefully through dialogue.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Army chief said that the recent strengthening of the defence ties between the Philippines and the US will not affect its relations with China. According to him, the new initiatives are not directed at any particular nation and China does not have anything to worry from the US-Philippine ties. He said that the help from US is especially needed during natural calamities like Typhoons and Cyclones, which affect Philippines frequently.
According to an announcement from the Philippine Navy, a total of 8 PLAN ships are still present at the Scarborough Shoal, as compared to two of the Philippine ships. In addition to one Coast Guard vessel, a ship from the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is also patrolling the area.
The Scarborough shoal is a disputed area, which consists of a group of rocks lying between the Macclesfield Bank and Luzon Island. As per the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention of 1958, the rocks are situated within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).