MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario believes that a China Central Television’s (CCTV) nationwide broadcast on Monday declaring the Philippines a part of China was unintentional.
In a text message, Del Rosario on Thursday noted “Beijing, I am sure, does not want to be depicted as being in an expansionist move.”
“Perhaps, this should be declared as an inadvertent statement by [the Chinese government-run] media network,” Del Rosario told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Zhang Hua, the spokesman of the Chinese Embassy in Makati City, meanwhile, explained “it is apparently a lapse of words by the (CCTV) anchor, and as far as I know, the anchor herself has made clarification for it.”
“I don’t think this is something worth a comment,” said Zhang, also deputy chief of the embassy’s political section.
According to an Agence France-Press report, CCTV anchor He Jia accidentally called the Philippines as part of Chinese territory in an embarrassing gaffe as tensions between the two Asian neighbors over the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) run high.
He apparently meant to say that the rock formation, which Beijing calls Huangyan Island and referred to by Manila as Bajo de Masinloc and Panatag Shoal, belongs to China.
“We all know that the Philippines is China’s inherent territory and the Philippines belongs to Chinese sovereignty. This is an indisputable fact,” the news reader said in the CCTV broadcast, which has since disappeared from the network’s website but is available elsewhere on the web.
Meanwhile, the Filipino-American civic group US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) assailed the CCTV broadcast as a “Freudian slip” and “another sign of China’s arrogance.”
Rodel Rodis, the San Francisco, California-based president of USP4GG, said in a phone interview “the Chinese were expressing what they really feel about the Philippines … That TV broadcast was not inadvertent. It’s intentional.”
Del Rosario dismissed as “grossly irresponsible” a warning issued by the Global Times, one of China’s most popular newspapers, that nations involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea – including the Philippines – should “mentally prepare for the sounds of cannons” if they remain at loggerheads with Beijing.
He said that the tabloid-sized daily’s statement was “in contrast with the Philippine position which seeks a United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea rules-based solution to West Philippine Sea issues” like the six-nation Spratlys dispute.
The Department of Foreign Affairs head has repeatedly asserted that a rules-based approach “provides the key to securing the country’s claims to the Spratlys and advancing the peaceful settlement of conflicts,” including the Scarborough Shoal dispute.
Last month, the Global Times warned of a “small-scale war” between China and the Philippines as a result of their standoff at Scarborough Shoal.
The DFA, however, brushed aside the warning, saying “such irresponsible comments do not merit a response from us.”
The Global Times is owned by the Communist Party of China’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, and has a reputation for publishing nationalistic editorials that are often critical of foreign governments.
On Wednesday, the DFA said it was set to undertake a “new diplomatic initiative” aimed at defusing tensions between the Philippines and China over the Scarborough Shoal.
This was disclosed by Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesperson, when asked about published reports that Chinese maritime ships were denying Filipino fishermen access to their traditional fishing grounds in the lagoon of the rock formation.
In a text message, Hernandez said the foreign office was “endeavoring to undertake a new diplomatic initiative, which we hope will defuse the situation.”
He said, however, the DFA was “not prepared to discuss this as of this time.”
On Tuesday, the military reported that the number of Chinese vessels in the shoal had increased to over 30, from 14 last week.
China currently has three big ships in the area, in addition to seven Chinese fishing vessels and 23 utility boats.
The Philippines has only two vessels in the lagoon. These are the BRP Edsa, a Coast Guard search-and-rescue ship, and the MCS 3001, a vessel belonging to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.