Palace 'confident' no Chinese oil exploration in disputed Scarborough Shoal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 22) - Malacañang on Thursday said it is "confident" China is not conducting oil exploration in the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

The Palace statement comes after Filipino fishermen found what's believed to be an oil exploration equipment with Chinese markings early this month.

The ocean bottom seismometer was discovered north of the shoal - raising suspicion that Beijing may be conducting illegal activity in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

However, the government has received no report of a Chinese oil exploration vessel in the area, according to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. Without such a ship, he said the seismometer is useless.

"So for now, we're confident na wala naman pong exploration na nagaganap diyan sa [there's no oil exploration being carried out in] Scarborough," Roque said in a briefing.

If proven otherwise, he vowed the government will take "the corresponding action."

Roque added they will not ask China for an explanation on the recovered device, saying the allegations are only "based on speculation." However, he said authorities are currently investigating why the seismometer was there.

Calling for a Congressional probe into the matter, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the Palace should not "dismiss this issue outright and once again protect China's imperial interests."

"Aside from harvesting our giant clams and depleting our fisheries resources, this may be the primary reason why China's coast guard and maritime militia bar Filipino fishermen from fishing in Scarborough shoal. They may be mainly looking for oil in our EEZ," he added.

Malacañang and local authorities earlier denied reports that Filipino fishermen are being blocked by Chinese ships in Scarborough Shoal.