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Philippines stops boat convoy to disputed shoal

    Protesters hold a mask of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and picture of Philippine warships during a protest at the Philippines Consulate in Kong Hong Friday, May 11, 2012. The monthlong standoff between China and the Philippines over a remote South China Sea shoal is snowballing with hints of economic retaliation and sharpening public opinion on both sides, possibly narrowing the space for a hoped-for negotiated settlement. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

MANILA, Philippines >> Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has intervened to stop a convoy of fishing boats that was heading to a South China Sea shoal as the Philippines and China discuss easing a two-month standoff there.

Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the president on Friday telephoned a former naval captain leading the convoy and he agreed to abandon the trip.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China would continue to guard the area “with high alert to prevent any provocative behavior.”

Philippine and Chinese vessels have been standing off at Scarborough Shoal, where both countries claim sovereignty. Talks have gained momentum after both sides declared a two-month fishing ban this week.

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