Manila, Philippines --- They might be outnumbered and outgunned but not a single soldier from a group of Marine commandos stationed at the Ayungin Shoal will be pulled out despite what Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin described as China's excessive intrusion in the area.
"It's part of our continental shelf and it's not disputed as far as we are concerned, it's ours so why should we leave," Gazmin told reporters in a chance interview at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
"Up to the last soldier standing, we will fight for what is ours," he added.
Gazmin was reacting to the confirmed report of at least 10 Chinese fishing vessels backed by two large civilian ships at the Ayungin Shoal.
And what is alarming is that the intruders are no longer civilian ships but is backed by a Chinese Navy frigate.
"That's already excessive violation, intrusion in our territory," said Gazmin.
The shoal is located some 110 nautical miles from the southernmost tip of Palawan, compared to some 300 to 500 nautical-mile distance from the tip of mainland China.
Only a few Filipino soldiers are stationed in the area, seeking refuge from an old ship which was deliberately rammed on the shoal to serve as a military detachment.
Gazmin said the soldiers will remain in the area despite the presence of Chinese ships, adding that they are even being regularly replenished with supplies by a Philippine Navy ship.
But despite China's brazen intrusion, Gazmin said what they could do now is to gather as many pieces of evidence that will be used in the filing of diplomatic protest against China.
"There are ways of doing it, right now we are doing it the legal way. The approach is the rules-based approach whereby we bring the violations to the pertinent court and file the necessary complaint," said Gazmin.
"Our goal is for the speedy resolution of our case to determine who is right and who is wrong," he added.
Despite the intrusions, Gazmin was quick to clarify that talks of war is vey farfetched.
The Philippines has been locked in a territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, which was further aggravated with the diplomatic row with Taiwan that started when the country's Coast Guard shot and appeared to have accidentally killed a Taiwanese fisherman in Balintang Channel.