By Mei Jingya, Sina English
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Friday night ordered two Philippine vessels engaged in a standoff with China in Huangyan Island to pull out from the area due to "bad weather," local media reported over the weekend.
"Last night, President Aquino ordered both of our ships to return to port due to increasing bad weather," Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario was quoted as saying Saturday. But he added re-deployment would be considered when weather improves.
The two ships, a coast guard patrol vessel and a fisheries bureau survey ship, had been stationed in Huangyan Island since April when the sea spat broke out. Aquino's decision was made out of concerns for personnel’s safety as Typhoon Guchol approached the Philippines and brought rains and rough sea conditions in the area in the past week, according to the Philippine media.
However, the Philippine Department of National Defense said the pullout would not weaken the country's "territorial claim."
Analysts say Aquino's decision, convenient with bad weather as an excuse, is actually aimed at ending the months-long row with China. For, technically, without the presence of Philippine ships, there is no face-to-face standoff.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on Sunday that China welcomed Philippine's decision. A diplomat from Chinese Embassy in Manila was quoted as saying China hopes the move will help deescalate the South China Sea tension.