Ex-military official sails to disputed Scarborough shoal
A former official of the Philippine marines and a group of concerned citizens of the Philippines are set to sail to Scarborough Shoal, a disputed territory being claimed by China and Philippines amid ongoing talks to diffuse the tense standoff in the area
The group led by Nicanor Faeldon, a former captain in the Philippines Marines, are expected to arrive at the disputed Scarborough Shoal on Friday using at least two fishing vessels, according to Faeldon's spokesman, Kit Guerrero.
"They want to protest against the aggression being committed by China against our country," Guerrero told AFP.
Faeldon and his group are expected to camp out in the area for at least three days. It is possible they will be arrested or detained by Chinese naval authorities who are patrolling area.
China has claimed the Scarborough Shoal as part of their territory. But the Philippines have vigorously objected to the claim by China, saying the shoal is an integral part of the Philippine territory as it is located in the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
The shoal, which is believed to be sitting on vast oil and gas deposits, is only about 230 kilometers away from the Philippine town of Masinloc, Zambales in the island of Luzon while the major Chinese landmass is about 1,200 kilometers away.
In early April this year, Chinese fishermen were caught by Philippine Coast Guard with boatload of illegally obtained endangered sea species but they were prevented by Chinese naval crew from arresting the Chinese fishermen.
The incident triggered a series of diplomatic confrontations and the dispatching of naval ships by both countries to the area.China and the Philippines have several naval vessels in the area and the situation has remained tense despite efforts to calm down the restive citizens of both countries.
Both countries have imposed a ban on fishing
in the disputed territory since Wednesday which was regarded in the diplomatic circle as a face-saving way for both countries to pull out their ships in the shoal while a more lasting solution is reached.
According to Philippine Navy spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Omar Tonsay the fishing ban is now in effect but he also said that there is no travel ban in the area.
The group will take off from the Municipality of Masinloc where they are now preparing for the voyage to the disputed territory.
“We are already here in Masinloc. So far we don't see any glitches that would stall the voyage,” Guerrero said
, when reached by phone on Thursday afternoon.
It was also reported that smaller fishing boats from the town of Masinloc are joining the group of Faeldon to show their support .