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Hackers bring PH-China dispute to cyberspace


12:19 AM April 23rd, 2012

By: Christine O. Avendaño, April 23rd, 2012 12:19 AM

Outnumbered in terms of warships, warplanes and ground troops, the Philippines wants no war with China even in cyberspace.

After hackers from both sides defaced each other’s websites, dramatizing the two countries’ conflicting claims over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, President Benigno Aquino III’s deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte on Sunday urged both Filipinos and Chinese to refrain from escalating tensions.

“It will not bode well for anybody from both sides to increase tension because of the issue,” Valte said in an interview over government radio dzRB. “We call on citizens, including ours, to exercise civil temperance.”

Valte was referring to recent attacks against Philippine and Chinese websites by hackers claiming that Panatag, or Huangyan Island to Chinese, is within their country’s territory. The shoal is located west of Zambales and, Philippine officials say, is well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

On Friday, hackers claiming, “We come from China! Huangyan Island is Ours,” defaced the website of the University of the Philippines (UP). The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) immediately called for an investigation.

‘Shoal is ours’

Rival hackers struck back.

On Saturday, a hacker (or hackers) bearing the name “Anonymous#Occupy Philippines” attacked the China University Media Union website, replacing its homepage content with a digitized image of a Guy Fawkes mask. The hacker said: “Chinese government is clearly retarded. Scarborough Shoal is ours!”

Guy Fawkes is a 16th-century English protester. His mask symbolizes the global protest hacking group called “Anonymous.”

Also attacked was a Chinese government website, where hackers posted a map of the West Philippine Sea and said the Spratly Islands—also a disputed cluster of isles and believed rich in oil and natural gas—belonged to the Philippines.

The UP website, meanwhile, was back online on Saturday.

Talks to continue

Valte did not think the cyber attacks would affect efforts by  Manila and Beijing to find a diplomatic solution to the standoff in Panatag.

“We don’t see that it will have any negative effect on the talks. We will continue to pursue the talks. We will continue to pursue the diplomatic track,” she said.

At present, talks between the two sides were “on and off,” according to Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang.

Malacañang, at the same time, gave China its assurance that the current Philippine military exercises with the United States had nothing to do with the issue of Panatag, saying the exercises had been scheduled for some time. With a report from AFP

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