Philippines: China ‘increasing ships at disputed shoal’

NewsyWorld: Philippine and China Stand Off on the Scraborough Shoal

A statement from the Foreign Ministry said the vessels included five government ships as well as dozens of fishing and utility boats.

The Philippines currently has two vessels there.

The two countries, both of which claim the area, have been locked in a stand-off since April.

On Monday there were five Chinese government vessels, 16 fishing boats and 56 “utility boats” in the area, the Philippine foreign ministry said.

The number of utility boats – smaller vessels launched from bigger boats, the coast guard said – went up to 76 on Tuesday, it said.

But the ministry said it was still “committed to efforts of defusing the tensions” with China, even as it “expressed grave concern” over the issue to the Chinese embassy in Manila.

In Beijing, the foreign ministry dismissed the comments.

“It is understood that some 20 Chinese fishing boats are operating around Huangyan Island, similar to that of last year,” said spokesman Hong Lei.

“The way they operate is in compliance with the relevant laws in China, as well as China’s fishing moratorium order.”

Both sides imposed fishing bans for the area earlier this month.

Fishing ban

The Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines and Huangyan Island in China, has been a source of ongoing tension in the region.

It lies a little more than 100 miles (160km) from the Philippines and 500 miles from China.

The current row began when the Philippines said its naval ship had found eight Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal but was prevented by Chinese surveillance ships from arresting the fishermen.

The dispute has started to hit tourism in the region, with authorities in Beijing warning Chinese citizens against travelling to the Philippines. Beijing has also upped inspection of fruit imports from the Philippines.

China is engaged in multiple disputes with its neighbours over the South China Sea, and in recent years has grown more assertive on the issue.

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