China slams PH ‘hype’ over West PH Sea

Paterno Esmaquel II
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario is expected to announce that Manila has filed a formal plea before the UN arbitration tribunal

DAVID VS GOLIATH. A much smaller Philippine ship arrives at the disputed Ayungin Shoal. Photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines – China denounced the “hype” the Philippines created in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) a day before Manila submits on Sunday, March 30, its historic pleading against Beijing. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made this statement after a Philippine ship successfully reached the disputed Ayungin Shoal (Ren’ai Reef) on Saturday, March 29, despite China’s efforts to block it.

Reports reaching the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said at least two Chinese coast guard ships tried to drive the Philippine vessel away. The Philippine contingent, which included journalists, aimed to resupply personnel in the Philippines’ stranded ship in Ayungin.

Hong said the “Philippines’ action aimed to hype up the South China Sea issue, so as to serve its attempt to illegally seize the Ren’ai Reef,” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

“The Philippines’ action cannot change the fact that China owns sovereignty over the Nansha (Spratly) Islands, including the Ren’ai Reef, and cannot shake China’s resolve to safeguard its national sovereignty, said the spokesman,” according to Xinhua.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario is expected to announce at 2:30 pm Sunday that Manila has filed a formal plea before the UN arbitration tribunal, officials said, despite Chinese warnings of a fallout in bilateral relations.

“In all of this, the Philippines… will do what is right. China can do what it prefers to do on this matter,” President Benigno Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte told reporters on Saturday.

The two-hour standoff in the Spratly archipelago was the latest in a series of escalations in a dispute between the two countries over their competing claims to waters and islands close to Philippine landmass.

In a statement on Saturday, DFA spokesman Charles Jose said, “We condemn the harassment by the Chinese coast guard of our civilian vessels which are on their way to Ayungin Shoal to resupply provisions to our personnel stationed there.”

'HYPE.' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei scoffs at Manila's moves on the eve of the filing of its pleading against China. File photo by AFP

PH vs China ‘threat’

The DFA stressed that Ayungin Shoal “is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf.” Therefore the Philippines “has sovereign rights and jurisdiction over it.”

“We demand that China cease taking actions that are a threat to our security,” Jose added.

Not only is the Philippines condemning China’s actions on Saturday. It is also filing on Sunday a written pleading, called a memorial, that is expected to agitate Beijing. (READ: PH readies ‘convincing evidence’ against China) 

It will file the memorial in relation to its historic case against China, filed in 2013, over the West Philippine Sea.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the memorial, more than 100 pages long, contains “very convincing” evidence against China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea.

Del Rosario is set to brief the media about the memorial at 2:30 pm on Sunday.

China’s claims encroach on the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), an area 200 nautical miles from a country’s baselines within which a state has the sovereign rights to explore and exploit, and conserve and manage natural resources, among others. (READ: What’s at stake in our case vs China) 

The Philippines says Ayungin is within its EEZ. – Rappler.com


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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.