Chinese government ships have left the lagoon but remain in the waters of Huangyan Island to provide services to Chinese fishermen there, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.
Spokesman Liu Weimin made the remarks at a daily news conference in response to a report saying that China and the Philippines have agreed to withdraw their ships from a lagoon in the area.
Huangyan Island is an undisputed integral part of Chinese territory, he said.
He said that on April 10 a number of Philippine military vessels harassed Chinese fishing boats in the lagoon. The Chinese side had since lodged solemn representation to the Philippine side and sent its official ships to the spot for monitoring, thus prompting the Philippine side to withdraw all but one of its ships.
The only Philippine ship remaining in the lagoon left on Sunday, and the Chinese side hopes there will be no further incidents that jeopardize China’s interests, he added.
Liu said the lagoon has a rather fragile ecosystem, so China rarely allows large ships to sail in it, adding that China sent in two ships on May 30 to clear the site after the withdrawal of the Philippine ships. The clean-up ships left on Tuesday.
Chinese fishing boats are currently operating under normal conditions, and the Chinese government ships are continuing to offer management and services, he said.
He also said the Chinese side will continue to negotiate with the Philippines over how to properly handle the incident concerning the island and how to improve bilateral ties.
In a statement, the Philippine Foreign Ministry said the two countries acted “following our consultations”. It said: “We will continue the consultations to address the remaining issues.”
Following the withdrawal, there were no Philippine or Chinese government vessels in the lagoon, Philippine Foreign Ministry spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a text message to Rappler.com, a Philippine website, which said the move could ease tension.