All the Chinese fishing boats left the lagoon in Huangyan Island in South China Seas on Friday night, after a five-day stalemate, according to sources from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the military on Saturday.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement issued on Saturday that all the Chinese fishing vessels had left the lagoon, and only one Chinese surveillance ship remained there.
The standoff erupted when the Philippine Navy spotted some Chinese fishing boats sought refuge from bad weather at a lagoon off the Huangyan Island on April 8. The Philippines sent its largest warship Gregorio del Pilar there to block the entrance of the lagoon on April 10. Two Chinese Marine Surveillance ships near the area rushed to the scene to protect the Chinese fishermen from being harassed.
Del Rosario said that the Philippines side at first agreed to allow the Chinese boats to return to China after their harvest of endangered species were confiscated. But Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing insisted that the Chinese fishing vessels would be subject to inspection by relevant Chinese authorities.
Anthony Alcantara, Northern Luzon Command chief of the Philippine Armed Forces, said Saturday that seven Chinese vessels including their marine survey vessel left the area Friday noon. At around 7 p.m.local time, five more vessels pulled out accompanied by a Chinese fisheries law enforcement ship.
However, the standoff continues as a Chinese surveillance ship and a Philippine Coast Guard craft remain there, Alcantara said.
Huangyan Island is an integral part of the Chinese territory and its surrounding waters have always been a traditional fishing ground for Chinese fishermen. China has abundant historical and jurisprudential evidence to support its exercising of sovereignty over the island and the surrounding waters, legal experts say.