The Philippine President and the Chinese Navy
Philippines President Benigno Aquino III visited China in August 2011 to discuss trade deals worth $7 billion. He is seen here inspecting Chinese sailors in an honor guard welcoming him at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The visit last year was originally seen as a means to patch over tensions between the two countries, which have flared up again due to the most recent series of maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Reuters

The Chinese-Filipino dispute over the islands in the South China Sea known internationally as Scarborough Shoal is entering its third week, and tensions between the two countries show no signs of dissipating.

The Filipino government is raising the stakes by sending more ships and a plane to the area it refers to as Panatag Shoal and which China calls Huangyan Island.

In China, China Youth Daily and other news outlets reported on Monday that the commander of the Philippine navy, Rear Admiral Alexander Pama, told the Philippines' ABS-CBN news that his country would dispatch two more warships and an anti-submarine airplane to Scarborough Shoal.

Further naval deployments from the Philippines may be in response to reports from Hong Kong and Chinese media that the People's Liberation Army has sent at least one nuclear-powered submarine into the South China Sea.

The Philippines is also calling on other South China Sea nations to make clear their stance on the current dispute over Panatag/Huangyan.

Albert del Rosario, the secretary of the Philippines department of foreign affairs, said last Sunday that since the freedom of navigation and unimpeded commerce in the South China Sea are of great import to many nations, all should consider what China is endeavoring to do in the Scarborough Shoal.

All, not just the Philippines, will be ultimately negatively affected if we do not take a stand, said Rosario.

The Chinese foreign ministry responded on Monday, saying Huangyan Island is an intrinsic part of Chinese territory; the stance of the Chinese government on protecting its territorial sovereignty is clear and steadfast. Allowing other nations to choose sides will only further complicate and expand the problem, and does not have the slightest benefit for appropriately resolving the current situation.

The standoff began on April 10 after the Philippines sent its largest warship, the Gregorio del Pilar, to intercept a group of Chinese fishing vessels anchored at Scarborough Shoal, and originally discovered there on April 8.

The Philippines claimed that the vessels were fishing illegally in the waters surrounding the shoal, and briefly boarded them with armed marines. China then sent two maritime surveillance vessels to protect its own claims to the area. It later sent a Fishery Administration vessel as well. The Gregorio del Pilar was later replaced by a smaller Filipino coast guard ship.

Philippine media reported on Monday that the China would be withdrawing two ships from the area as a sign of good faith.

Please kindly note that yesterday afternoon, the Chinese Fishery Administration Ship 'Yuzheng 310' and one of the two Chinese Maritime Surveillance Ships have already left the Huangyan Island area. Now there is only one Maritime Surveillance Ship remaining at the Huangyan Island area for its law enforcement mission, said Zhang Hua, representing the Chinese Embassy to the Philippines.

The withdrawal of the two ships proves once again China is not escalating the situation as some people said, but de-escalating the situation, said Zhang.

The statement may not placate some Chinese and Filipinos who are increasingly incensed over the dispute.

Last Saturday, a Chinese military commentator, retired general Luo Yuan, said that China has already shown enough restraint and patience over this incident.

The website of China Youth Daily, a government newspaper, was attacked last Saturday by Filipino hackers in retaliation for attacks by Chinese hackers on the homepage of the University of the Philippines.