China's ambassador to the Philippines has been summoned by the Foreign Ministry in Manila amid a tense naval standoff. Manila and Beijing are at odds over the possession of a small ring of coral and rock.
Philippine Foreign Minister Albert Del Rosario summoned the Chinese ambassador in Manila, Ma Keqing, to voice concern over the latest maritime confrontation between the countries.
Manila said its largest warship was in a tense standoff with two Chinese surveillance vessels on Wednesday. The incident took place at the disputed Scarborough Shoal - a ring of rock and coral.
Del Rosario protested to Ma late on Tuesday, telling her that the Philippine navy would enforce Philippine laws. The standoff continued on Wednesday.
The shoal lies off the coast of the northwestern Philippine province of Zambales is the subject of disputed ownership with China.
The Philippine Foreign Ministry said that on Sunday, a Philippine navy plane spotted eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in a lagoon at Scarborough. The Philippine military then deployed its largest warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar - recently bought from the United States.
Search of vessels, arrests hampered
Collected corals, giant clams and live sharks were found on one of the boats, Manila said.
"Two Chinese maritime surveillance ships later positioned themselves between the Philippine warship and fishing boats preventing the arrests of the erring Chinese fishermen," a statement said.
Manilasays the shoal is an "integral part of Philippine territory," while China claims the wider maritime area.
The dispute is only the most recent in a region where maritime boundaries often appear to be blurred. Last year, the Philippines accused China of allowing vessels to intrude into other contested stretches of sea.
They include the Spratly Islands, which - as well as being claimed by China - are also subject to claims by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
rc/slk (AP, Reuters)