Travel agencies in China, including Ctrip.com and Beijing International Travel Service, have halted all their tours and tourist packages to the Philippines amidst escalation of tension between the two countries over disputed islands in the West Philippines Sea, ABS-CBN News said.
The travel companies said they would refund customers who have already booked trips and would not accept anymore bookings ‘until the situation improves.’
At just about the same time, the Chinese embassy in the Philippines warned its citizens to stay off the streets in Manila and stay secured in the confines of their abodes during a rally expected to be held on Friday by militants in protest against China’s incursions into areas the Philippines government perceived as their territory.
Several Filipino fishing boats and the Philippines Coast Guard stood guard in waters near Philippines’ Panatag Shoal (English name: Scarborough Shoal) in a ‘standoff’ with four Chinese maritime surveillance ships and eight Chinese fishing boats increasing risk of confrontation.
The Philippines argued that the shoal was well within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, as recognized by international law, but China was claiming the whole of the South China Sea as its historical territory, including waters close to other countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
The Philippines was documenting the situation to present it before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) for resolution.