Philippines preparing issues for UN about China ‘intrusions’

Posted on June 03, 2011

THE PHILIPPINES is preparing to file another complaint with the United Nations on new Chinese "intrusions" into Philippine territory, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III said yesterday, as he committed to raising the issue with Beijing in a state visit by the third quarter.

"We are completing the data on about six to seven instances since February. We will present it to [China] and then bring these to the appropriate body, which normally is the United Nations," Mr. Aquino told reporters during his two-day official state visit to Brunei Darrusalam that ended yesterday.

While Mr. Aquino reiterated the call for "peaceful resolution" rather than provocation in the disputed territories in the South China Sea, he noted that some actions of China were not justified.

The latest of the series of Chinese intrusions, Mr. Aquino noted, occurred on the same day that he had a bilateral meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie in Manila on May 23.

In this instance, Chinese vessels were reportedly unloading building materials and also placed a buoy in waters inside the West Philippine Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday had formally asked for an explanation of the incident from China’s charge d’affaires in Manila.

Earlier, the Philippines had also lodged a diplomatic protest against Beijing over a March 2 incident in Reed Bank in Western Palawan, where two Chinese patrol boats had reportedly "harassed" a local exploration vessel.

Mr. Aquino, however, maintained that it will be counterproductive for the government to engage in verbal sparring with Beijing.

"Pag nagsagutan tayo in public, nagkatigasan ng posisyon, tapos ang compromise, tataas ang conflict [If we engage in a public spat, we will firm up our positions, we’ll halt any compromise, and the conflict will escalate]," he said.

Mr. Aquino, who has been lobbying in recent months among colleagues in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to unify as a bloc on a detailed code of conduct, proposed that a central position on the South China Sea dispute among the claimant-countries within ASEAN will be the best way to deal with a superpower like China.

"We govern ourselves there, instead of one country has a bilateral agreement with China and the other has a different bilateral agreement with China. Let’s come together as a body... Why do we have to fight or increase all of these tensions when it profits nobody?" said Mr. Aquino.

Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all have a stake on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Of these countries, only Brunei lacks military presence in the area.

China visit

For his China visit, of which the exact date was not mentioned, the President intends to again raise the South China Sea code of conduct.

"I’ll try and talk to them. How do we find a solution to this position? What is clear to me is, if we say that we are the ones in the right, then they say they are the ones in the right, with no dialogue, you put them in a corner, they back down from us, there’s loss of face, tensions escalate. You have to be very judicious in how you deal with them," said Mr. Aquino.

During his meeting with Mr. Liang two weeks ago, Mr. Aquino warned that continued provocative actions in the area might result in an arms race in the region. -- Johanna Paola D. Poblete