Filipino fishermen have returned to the waters around Scarborough Shoal but despite earlier claims by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, Chinese vessels have not left the disputed area.
According to reports from Reuters, Philippine aerial surveillance showed that Chinese coast guard ships had maintained a reduced presence, but it not blocked Filipino boats at the rocky outcrop.
Following reports that claimed several Filipinos were now able to fish at the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the South China Sea, Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said that both Philippines and China have reached what he called “friendly” understanding.
“The coastguard of China is there, but their Navy is gone. And now, our fishermen are no longer being accosted, no longer being forced out, so we can say things are now friendly,” he said.
Following Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Beijing two weeks ago, access to the rich fishing grounds was restored, where reports told that Duterte wants “separation” from longtime ally United States and announced pivot toward China. It is unclear if any conditions were placed upon the blockade lifting or how long it will last.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the situation at Scarborough Shoal has not changed and will not changed.