China hails Philippine pullout from shoal

Crew members of the fishing boats where a former Philippine Marine officer and his protesters, were set to sail for the disputed Scarborough shoal, at a pier in Masinloc town, Zambales province.

China on Sunday welcomed the Philippine government's decision to order home its two vessels that had been facing off with Chinese ships at Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The withdrawal of a Philippine Coast Guard patrol vessel and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) survey ship on Friday ended the standoff after two months and one week, leaving China in control of Scarborough Shoal.

President Benigno Aquino ordered the two vessels home on Friday night as a typhoon over the Pacific Ocean and a low-pressure system over Palawan combined to cause stormy weather in the West Philippine Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said there were negotiations for China's withdrawal from the shoal, but as of Sunday, there were no signs that the Chinese vessels in the area were preparing to go home.

In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Zhang Hua, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy, said: "We have noticed the withdrawal of government vessels by the Philippine side. We hope this action will help ease the tensions."

Zhang was referring to the tensions between the Philippines and China caused by their territorial dispute over Scarborough Shoal, which Manila calls Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc.

Zhang, also deputy chief of the embassy's political section, said "the Chinese side has been urging the Philippine side to take measures to deescalate the situation."

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