Philippines vows to defend territory against China

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MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines vowed Thursday to “defend what is ours” as part of a stand-off over a Chinese warship circling a West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) reef which is occupied by Filipino Marines.

The Philippines this week protested the “provocative and illegal presence” of the warship near Ayungin Shoal or Second Thomas Shoal, but China brushed off the complaint with an insistence that the area was part of its territory.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said Thursday the warship, along with two patrol vessels and a fleet of Chinese fishing boats, remained near the shoal.

“They should not be there. They do not have the right to be there… no-one should doubt the resolve of the Filipino people to defend what is ours in that area,” Hernandez said in a text message to Agence France-Presse.

“Our Navy and our Coast Guard are mandated to enforce the laws of the (Philippine) republic.”

China claims nearly all of the West Philippine Sea, even waters far away from its main landmass and approaching the coasts of Southeast Asian countries.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the sea, and the area has for decades been regarded as a potential trigger for major military conflict in the region.

Ayungin Shoal is a tiny group of islets and reefs in the Spratly Islands chain, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) northwest of Palawan, the nearest major landmass.

All claimants, except Brunei, have troops stationed on various islands and atolls in the Spratlys to assert their claims.

Ayungin Shoal is guarded by a handful of Philippine Marines aboard a World War II-era ship that was deliberately grounded there in the late 1990s to serve as a base.

It is about 41 kilometers (25 miles) east of Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef), a Philippine-claimed outcrop that China occupied in 1995.

Ayungin Shoal and Panganiban Reef are within the Philippines’ internationally recognized exclusive economic zone, and surrounding waters are rich fishing grounds.

Last year China took control of Scarborough Shoal, another bountiful fishing area far closer to Filipino landmass than Chinese, after a similar stand-off ended with the Philippines retreating.

China’s announced defense budget of $115 billion this year is nearly 100 times more than the Philippines.’

President Benigno Aquino III this week announced a planned $1.8-billion military upgrade to defend the country’s maritime territory against “bullies.”

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  • ilikemac

    It belongs to China: Philippine media
    Updated: 2012-05-09 10:52

    By Victor N. Arches II (Manila Standard Today)

    The Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island) does belong to China, which discovered it
    and drew it in a map as early as 1279 during the Yuan Dynasty. Chinese
    fishermen, from both the Mainland and Taiwan, have since used it. As a matter
    of fact, Guo Shoujing, (the Chinese astronomer, engineer and mathematician who
    worked under the Mongol ruler, Kublai Khan) performed surveying of the South
    China Sea, and the surveying point was the Scarborough Shoal, which is
    considered part of the Zhongsha Islands (renamed Huangyan Island in 1983).

    By
    contrast, the “old maps” being relied upon by our Department of
    Foreign Affairs in its spurious claim on the same territory were drawn up only
    in 1820, or 541 years after China’s. I am surprised that Senator Edgardo Angara
    – supposedly a renowned lawyer -can claim that a map drawn 5 centuries and 4
    decades after, takes precedence over the much earlier map of China. But I am
    all the more astonished that Fr. Joaquin Bernas, in his April 22 article in
    another newspaper, being one of the main framers of the 1987 Constitution, uses
    the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as his basis to defend the
    Philippine claim. This, despite and after acknowledging the fact that, indeed,
    “the Scarborough Shoal is OUTSIDE THE LIMITS set by the Treaty of Paris
    for Philippine territory.” What kind of double-speak is that? So, what
    exactly was the territory we declared independence from the US in 1946? Why is
    it that NONE of our constitutions, past and present, from 1899, 1935, 1943,
    1973, 1986 and 1987, include either the Spratlys or the Scarborough Shoal within
    our declared national territory? Where, or from whom, did we, all of a sudden,
    acquire title to these? Out of thin air? In the late 1970s, China organized
    many scientific expeditions in the Shoal and around that area. In fact, in
    1980, a stone marker reading “South China Sea Scientific Expedition”
    was installed by China on the South Rock. This Chinese marker was removed,
    without authority, by the Philippines in 1997.All official maps published by
    the Philippines until the 1990sexcluded both the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal
    from its territorial boundaries. Our own Republic Act No. 3046, passed by our
    Congress and approved in 1961, stopped us from our claim. Yet, we had the
    temerity to amend this law on March 10, 2009, after48 long years, to
    unilaterally include the disputed territories. But what takes the cake is the
    fact that China holds three international treaties in support of its claim over
    the territories in question—namely, the 1898 Treaty of Paris between the US and
    Spain, the 1900 Treaty of Washington between Spain and the US, and the 1930
    Treaty between Great Britain and the US, all limiting Philippine territorial
    limits to the 118th degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich. On the
    other hand, the basis of the Philippine claim is restricted to proximity,
    relying solely on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. As
    far as I know, a mere “convention” cannot overturn or supersede a
    treaty or an agreement reached between colonial powers. And even if it were
    considered a “law”, it cannot be made to take effect retroactively.
    Whom are we fooling? Posted April 28th, 2012 by Manila Standard Today & filed under Opinion

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