Manila Five more Chinese fishing vessels left Scarborough Shoal on the contested South China Sea on Friday night, carrying live sharks, clams and corals taken near central Philippines Subic Bay last Sunday, officials said.
"As of last night [Friday], the remaining five [out of eight] Chinese fishing vessels pulled out from the vicinity of the Scarborough Shoal [located 200 kilometres west of Subic]. The Chinese fisheries commanding vessel also left [for China]," Northern Luzon (Nolcom) military commander Lt Gen Anthony Alcantara told radio station DZBB.
Small Filipino-manned boats witnessed the pullout of the five Chinese fishing vessels which occurred at 6.30pm Friday, said Alcantara.
This happened while Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario and China's envoy Ma Keqing tried to resolve the two countries' maritime dispute on Friday night.
Three Chinese fishing vessels initially left at 6.30 Friday morning.
Meanwhile, the live black-tip sharks, giant clams and corals that the Chinese fishermen allegedly kept in their fishing vessels were not recovered. "Apparently, it was part of the deal," said Alcantara.
Usually, authorities seize the fishing vessels of foreign fishermen found illegally poaching in Philippine waters.
As of yesterday, "the ship of the Philippine Coast Guard and China's maritime survey ship were the only ones that stayed near the Scarborough Shoal", said Alcantara.
Although observers believed that the reduction of ships near Scarborough Shoal also eased tensions that started to rise last Sunday at the western flank of the Philippines that faces the South China Sea, del Rosario said, "The meeting with Ambassador Ma last night resulted in a stalemate."
He gave two reasons for this. "We had demanded of one another that the other nation's ship be first to leave the area," del Rosario said, referring to the pattern of exit of the last two ships near the Scarborough Shoal.
He also expressed regrets that the Philippines did not have a chance to negotiate with Ma for the release of the illegally poached marine products.
On Thursday, the Philippine Navy's warship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar and another Chinese vessel left Scarborough Shoal. It was replaced by a Philippine Coast Guard vessel.
The crisis began when three Chinese civilian vessels blocked Philippine authorities who were in a warship and were investigating all the eight Chinese fishing boats that docked at the Scarborough Shoal.
China and the Philippines exchanged diplomatic protests. China reiterated its historic right to claim all of the South China Sea, and the Philippines claimed a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone from its shoreline, based on the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
In 2011, the Philippines and Vietnam escalated to the United Nations their complaints about China's claim to all parts of the waters near their respective territories.