MANILA, 6July2013 (PNA) – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Friday confirmed the departure of all Chinese surveillance ships off Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
He said that this information was based on Filipino aerial patrols conducted last June 27 and 28 and during the first week of July.
“As far as we know, there are no more Chinese ships off Panatag,” Gazmin said.
He attributes the departure of the Chinese vessels due to the inclement weather.
“I guess this is really what they do during inclement weather,” the DND chief added.
Gazmin also clarified that until now, no Chinese ships were spotted in the fish rich area which lies 124 nautical miles off Zambales, well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The DND chief declined to comment on whether there are Filipino efforts to ensure that Chinese will be prevented from coming.
“I cannot discuss that with you,” Gazmin emphasized.
The DND chief refused to comment on whether the recently-concluded ASEAN Summit has something to do with the departure of the Chinese ships.
Chinese surveillance vessels have been regularly patrolling Panatag Shoal ever since the maritime stand-off between China and the Philippines in April last year.
This aggressive behavior by the Chinese has forced the country to file one diplomatic protest after another at the United Nations in a bid to stop China from encroaching on Philippine territory. (PNA)