|Photos from the Department of National Defense|
“Actually, there are 10 ships, four Coast Guard, four barges, and two other manned vessels,” Lorenzana said. “What is suspicious is they have drums, things that appear to be containers.”
One of the vessels is also anchored at the entrance of the shoal. However, Lorenzana reiterated what Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua said, that the vessels are merely in the process of transferring sand from one are to another.
“We suspect that they’re testing the ground if their technology can reclaim underwater,” he explained. “The area is ours. Once they seize an island, they can no longer recover it. If they start reclamation and build, it can pose a risk to our security because it’s just 30 miles away from Masinloc town in Zambales.”
A traditional fishing ground for Filipinos is situated just 125 miles from Masinloc, Panatag Shoal.
There have been many instances where the presence of Chinese ships in the area had barred the local fishermen to do their livelihood and the Department of Foreign Affairs is planning to ask China why they have ships in the shoal.
“We will continue to conduct surveillance operations,” Lorenzana said.
Meanwhile, President Duterte has expressed its intention to hold bilateral talks with China in order to settle the issue on the West Philippine Sea. He had also asked their government to let the Filipino fisherfolk to fish on Panatag Shoal. ASCS