Chinese ships left Scarborough Shoal: defense chief
After four years, Chinese ships have left Scarborough Shoal, Defense Secretary Delfin Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.
"Yes, that's the report we got from our coast guard. Since three days ago there are no longer Chinese ships, Coast Guard or Navy, in the Scarborough area," Lorenzana said.
"If the Chinese ships have left, then it means our fishermen can resume fishing in the area," Lorenzana added.
Lorenzana welcomed the development as he emphasized its importance to the Filipino fishermen.
"We welcome this development. Our fishermen have not been fishing there since 2012," he said. "This will return to them their traditional source of livelihood." .
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, the Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, said "the AFP welcomes this development that will definitely benefit our fishermen."
Last October 23. President Rodrigo Duterte said Filipino fishermen should wait for "a few more days" as they might return to their traditional fishing ground in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea.
Duterte said if the Filipinos could fish in the disputed area, he would not allow them to go inside the lagoon in Scarborough Shoal.
He said the lagoon or "fishpond" which serves as the breeding ground of fish should be avoided so supply would be continuous. He said as far as he knows, China also ordered its fishermen not to go there.
In a speech in Tuguegarao, Duterte said during his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, part of their discussion was about how the two countries could further cooperate.
China has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including Scarborough, which is within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. When the tension ensued between the Philippines and China 2012, Beijing's coast guard vessels started to patrol the South China Sea. They also began shooing away the Filipino fishermen who used to fish in Scarborough Shoal.
"The number of Filipinos is increasing. The cheapest thing that they can buy today is the marine product. So it behooves upon us to really not gamble and destroy these pawning grounds because then it would result in imbalance of our food (supply)," Duterte said.
The presence of Chinese ships in Scarborough Shoal was started when the standoff between China and Philippines occurred after the Philippine navy apprehended Chinese poachers in the area last April 2012. Robina Asido, Celerina Monte/DMS