The Philippine government has not yet received any report on spotting a sea vessel engaged in oil exploration in the Scarborough Shoal, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government would take the necessary action if such exploration vessel will be found sailing in the area. For now, concerned authorities continue to monitor the area and has not seen any mineral exploration activity, according to Roque.
The Palace official made the statement after local fishermen reportedly recovered a device supposedly used in oil exploration off the coast of Pangasinan province. The device was turned over to the country’s naval authorities.
“As far as we know, binabantayan natin ‘yung mga barkong naglalayag sa Scarborough Shoal at wala naman nare-report sa atin na isang barko na ginagamit for exploration purposes (As far as we know, we are monitoring the ships sailing along Scarborough Shoal and we have not received any report about a boat used for exploration purposes),” Roque said during a televised Palace press briefing Thursday, July 22.
Without the exploration vessel, Roque explained that the equipment reportedly found by some fishermen could not be used.
“Kinakailangan kasi ng barko talaga na nagbabato ng sound signal sa ilalim ng karagatan para mag-explore kung mayroon nga langis sa ilalim ng karagatan. wala naman pong report na nakukua so for now, we are confident na wala naman po exploration na nagaganap sa Scarborough (A boat is needed to send sound signal to the bottom of the ocean to explore if there is indeed oil. We have not received such report so for now we are confident that there is no exploration in Scarborough),” he said.
Roque assured the nation that government measures will be taken if the oil exploration activity is verified.
“Kung mayroon naman po (If there is a vessel), if we can verify it then we will file or do the corresponding action,” he added.
President Duterte previously blamed past administration officials for the country’s loss of the Panatag Shoal, also known as Scarborough Shoal, following a standoff with China in 2012. Duterte was dismayed that the country’s ships were pulled out from the shoal under a supposed United States-brokered deal. China, on the other hand, kept its ships in the area and effectively took control of the shoal.
Duterte had lashed out at former Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario over his role in the Panatag Shoal incident, insisting that he must be investigated and held accountable for the loss of the territory then.