MANILA, Philippines - Just call it Panatag Shoal.
Malacañang Thursday finally declared it prefers to call the disputed area near Zambales as Panatag Shoal, ending a name game since the territorial rift with China started last month.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda explained that they will continue to use the name Panatag Shoal, which the government insists lies within the Philippine territory, "for brevity."
Other names of the shoal previously used by the Philippine government are Scarborough Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc. China, which is also claiming ownership of the shoal, calls it Huangyan Island.
"We have definitely de-escalated the tensions in the Panatag shoal. We'd like to call it the Panatag shoal, by the way," Lacierda said during a Palace press conference.
"Panatag Shoal for brevity," Lacierda later said in a text message when asked if the preferred name was meant to assert the country's claim over the shoal.
The Philippines and China are locked in a standoff over the ownership of the Panatag shoal since local authorities tried to arrest Chinese fishermen in the area last month.
Last weekend, Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte said she would ask her superiors on the preferred name of the disputed shoal near Masinloc, Zambales.
She claimed that the government and the media have used Scarborough Shoal, the familiar name that appears on maps. But the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has recently referred to the shoal as Bajo de Masinloc, the legal and formal name of the territory. The area is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales, an integral part of the Philippine territory.
Valte however said she prefers to use Panatag Shoal, which has become more familiar in recent weeks.
Lacierda, meantime, said the government is confident that the Philippine government will win the ownership battle over Panatag Shoal in the international tribunal.
He said they intend to elevate the complaint against China before the tribunal to assert the country's territorial rights over Panatag area.
"We don't believe that we are going to lose Panatag Shoal in the same way that they allowed---during their time that they allowed the Chinese to put up garrisons in mischief reef," he said.
"We have sovereign rights over the Panatag shoal. They are within the exclusive economic zone of our country," he added.(Genalyn D. Kabiling)