MALACAÑANG on Tuesday, June 11, expressed concern over the reported presence of a Chinese warship at the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in the disputed South China Sea.
"Siyempre (Of course), we are always concerned on any intrusion to our sovereignty," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in an interview with Palace reporters.
Panelo said the Duterte administration expects China to explain its presence in the Scarborough Shoal during bilateral negotiations.
"Let’s see. Hindi pa natin exactly alam kung ano ang reason nila (We don't know exactly the reason why they were there). They have to state their position on this," he said.
"Baka merong threat sa kanila (Perhaps, they have received threat), as far as they are concerned," he added.
The Philippine Coast Guard's (PCG) BRP Malabrigo conducted a four-day patrol in the Scarborough Shoal from June 6 to 9.
On Monday, June 10, the PCG confirmed that during its maritime patrol, it spotted two Chinese Coast Guard vessels, two militia boats, and a naval ship within seven to 12 nautical miles off the shoal.
Despite this, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday allayed public concerns over the reported sighting of the Chinese vessels, stressing that it was only normal for ships to pass through the waterway.
Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground located 124 nautical miles from Zambales, is claimed by both Manila and Beijing.
In 2012, China seized control of the shoal after a stand-off with the Philippines, prompting the Aquino government to file an arbitration case against Beijing's sweeping claims over the resource-rich South China Sea.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands in July 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines, invalidating China's extensive claims to the busy waterway.
China, however, has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the arbitral ruling, while the Philippines has also opted to temporarily set aside its victory in the arbitration case to mend ties with Beijing.
In April, Malacañang slammed China's reported mass harvesting of giant clams in Scarborough Shoal as an affront to the Philippines' territorial integrity and sovereignty. (SunStar Philippines)