Coast Guard ship staying put in Panatag
- Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - June 13, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel has remained at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal despite bad weather to continue defending the country’s sovereignty there, a senior security official disclosed as the Philippines celebrated Independence Day yesterday.

“Despite the prevailing weather system in the area, one of our PCG vessels remains in the vicinity of Panatag Shoal as the area belongs to us. It is ours,” the source said.

The official denied speculation that the country celebrated its 114th Independence Day as it started to lose Panatag Shoal to the Chinese due to the absence of an all-weather vessel that could withstand the rough sea in the area at this time of the year.

China is claiming Panatag Shoal as an integral part of its maritime domain, even though the shoal is inside the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

The standoff at Panatag started last April 10 when two Chinese Maritime Surveillance ships (CMS) prevented the crew of Philippine Navy vessel BRP Gregorio del Pilar from arresting Chinese fishermen caught poaching in the area.

The Gregorio del Pilar was subsequently pulled out to defuse tension and replaced by a Coast Guard vessel.

A research ship of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) was also deployed in the area.

Panatag Shoal is a rock formation located 124 nautical miles off Masinloc, Zambales, and more than 500 kilometers from the nearest Chinese coastline in Hainan Island.

Military officials said that China has maintained five CMS and three Fishery Law Enforcement (FLEC) vessels in the area, while the Philippines has two ships in the vicinity of the disputed shoal.

PCG vessels in all ports of the country celebrated Independence Day by simultaneously sounding their foghorns for two minutes.

Merchant ships docked in Manila Bay also celebrated by sounding their foghorns.

A PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD BUREAU OF FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES CHINESE MARITIME SURVEILLANCE COAST GUARD FISHERY LAW ENFORCEMENT GREGORIO HAINAN ISLAND INDEPENDENCE DAY MANILA BAY PANATAG PANATAG SHOAL
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