“As far as the last air patrol that we conducted, the (Chinese) ships are no longer at Panatag Shoal,” Gazmin said. “I guess this is really what they do during inclement weather.”
This contradicted an earlier statement by Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez denying that Chinese warships have left the shoal, which is about 124 nautical miles off Zambales province.
Gazmin said the military had its latest patrol early this week.
Manila and Beijing have been in an impasse regarding the shoal since April 10 last year when Chinese ships blocked the arrest of fishermen who were caught poaching by Philippine authorities.
Since then, China has virtually controlled the shoal, a rich fishing area for Zambales residents.
Gazmin, however, refused to answer questions regarding Philippine efforts to ensure that the foreign ships will not return to the shoal.
“I cannot discuss that with you,” Gazmin told reporters.
Regarding Chinese Major General Luo Yan’s statement calling the Philippines as trouble-maker, Gazmin said: “You know what really happened. If he thinks we are troublemakers, then that is the right of the Chinese to say so but everybody knows that we didn’t start the whole thing.” — KBK, GMA News