By Mei Jingya, Sina English
Philippine air surveillance reported at least three Chinese government ships had remained in Huangyan Island as of Friday, but none of them can be sighted within and in the vicinity of the island by Monday, said the Philippine Star, citing an anonymous security official.
Philippine Navy chief Alexander Pama said the Chinese ships were playing hide-and-seek with Philippine authorities as they came and went so hastily, seemingly in a kind of rotation.
The country’s GMA News network said Monday that Chinese ships may return at any time. President Aquino III has yet to decide whether to send back Philippine ships to Huangyan Island. Aquino convened a cabinet meeting on July 5, which agreed on a draft resolution to the standoff. Contents of the draft are classified as ‘confidential’.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met with his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba and Deputy Prime Minister Katsura Okada during his visit to Tokyo last week.
Rosario told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the Philippines and Japan have agreed to further enhance their bilateral cooperation and that Tokyo would likely provide the Philippine Coast Guard with 12 patrol ships.
He said that aside from the United States, three other countries, Japan, South Korea and Australia, are also helping the Philippines establish a minimum credible defense posture to complement its diplomatic capacity in dealing with its territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.
GMA also disclosed on Monday that amid an ongoing territorial row with China, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) have started forming quick response teams to guard “the Philippine waters.”
It said a total of 16 teams are being planned. Team members will be trained on law enforcement, environmental protection and other actions against illegal fishing. BFAR head Asis Perez said one team will be deployed to each of the country's 16 regions - including the flash point area China and the Philippines are disputing over.
Aquino’s administration has already been criticized at home for its strategy in handling territorial disputes with China. Senator Joker Arroyo, who was close to the late President Corazon Aquino, Aquino III’s mother, said Sunday that President Benigno Aquino should use “quiet diplomacy” as his mother frequently did. He advised the Philippine president to tell his subordinates to “shut up” if he finds them “talking nonsense” so as not to jeopardize efforts to seek a solution acceptable to both countries.
The senator criticized Aquino’s press officers, including those from the presidential palace, for “talking to reporters about the government’s every step in handling the dispute”.“They’re know-it-all, you know, they can’t stop talking,” Arroyo was quoted as saying.