One of China’s most popular newspapers has warned of a potential “small-scale war” between Beijing and Manila as a result of their standoff at Panatag Shoal, or Scarborough Shoal as the area is known internationally.
The Global Times, in an editorial published in its Chinese and English editions, said over the weekend that “China should be prepared to engage in a small-scale war at sea with the Philippines.”
“Once the war erupts, China must take resolute action to deliver a clear message to the outside world that it does not want a war, but definitely has no fear of it,” the tabloid said.
Malacañang and Philippine military officials were unfazed by the toughly worded editorial.
In a speech at Xavier School in Greenhills, San Juan City, President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said his administration was raising international awareness on the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China to show the global community how Beijing was treating Manila.
Mr. Aquino said the Philippines wanted to take the issue to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea but China’s cooperation was needed to resolve it.
“Our weapon really here is for the world to know what we are doing,” the President said. “These nations could start thinking if this is how we are being treated—whether they are as big or as small as us—maybe there will come a time that they will get the same treatment [from China],” he said.
He maintained it was not his intention to escalate the problem with China.
“We own the shoal,” Mr. Aquino said, referring to Panatag, which lies about 200 kilometers west of Zambales province. “For so long a time we own it and [we are] recognized by international law, especially under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). That’s the only thing that we’re asking.”
Asked for comment on the Chinese paper’s editorial, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez said that “such irresponsible comments do not merit a response from us.”
The Global Times is owned by the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, The People’s Daily. It has a reputation for publishing nationalistic editorials that are often highly critical of foreign governments and even Chinese officials.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario urged Beijing to concur with Manila’s proposal to resolve the territorial disputes between the two countries in accordance with the Unclos.
‘They’re lying,’ ships still there
In Camp Aquino in Tarlac City, the head of the military’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) accused China of lying when it claimed it had withdrawn most of its vessels at Panatag Shoal.
“We are telling them they’re not telling the truth,” Nolcom commander Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara told visiting defense reporters.
In a press briefing, Alcantara said at least seven Chinese vessels remained in the vicinity of Panatag, including two small fishing boats anchored on the lagoon and three other fishing vessels off a sandbar.
Alcantara said two Chinese maritime ships—the gunboat FLEC 310 and the surveillance ship CMS 71—had been sighted in the Panatag waters as of 8 p.m. Monday.
Two more surveillance ships, the CMS 84 and 75, are believed to be replenishing provisions and refueling somewhere in the Chinese mainland, he added.
The presence of the ships, according to Alcantara, belied a statement from the Chinese embassy that only one Chinese surveillance ship remained in the area, and that the two others had been recalled.
Chinese embassy spokesperson Zhang Hua said only one Chinese surveillance ship remained at Panatag for “law enforcement missions.”
“The withdrawal of the two ships proves once again China is not escalating the situation as some people said, but de-escalating the situation,” Zhang said.
On the Philippine side, a Coast Guard ship, the BRP Pampanga, and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship, the MCS 3006, are in the Panatag waters to stand guard, Alcantara said.
Last night, the DFA said that “contrary to the Chinese embassy’s claim, two of their vessels—the maritime surveillance ships CMS 71 and FLEC 310—are still in the area, along with five Chinese fishing vessels.” The information came from the Coast Guard, it said.
War of netizens
In Manila, the science and technology department’s Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) has warned Filipino techies against defacing Chinese websites. It said trading barbs online would not help in the government’s efforts to ease tensions with China.
Philippine websites have been defaced by Chinese nationals, and vice versa, as netizens took the quarrel between both countries online.
“The recent alleged defacement of foreign websites by local hacker groups is not condoned nor encouraged by the Philippine government,” ICTO executive director Louis Casambre said. With a report from Paolo G. Montecillo