China offended at 'new' Panatag name

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines' “new” name for Scarborough Shoal has sparked China's “fury.”

In its banner story Tuesday, May 8, the state-run China Daily said Beijing “slammed Manila's attempt to 'rename' Huangyan Island” to Panatag Shoal.

“We strongly urge the Philippines to return to diplomacy,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei at a news conference Monday, May 7. He added “any remark or move that complicates or intensifies the situation is nonsensical,” China Daily reported.

The name Panatag Shoal is not new in the Philippines, with the government having referred to Scarborough Shoal as such even before the standoff in the area began. The formal name of the shoal, however, is Bajo de Masinloc. (Read: 10 Scarborough Facts for Pinoys)

On Thursday, May 3, however, Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Palace prefers the name Panatag Shoal for the disputed area. This is “for brevity,” Lacierda explained.

Rappler is still trying to reach Lacierda for comment as of posting time.

China, for its part, calls the area Huangyan Island for reasons that can benefit its territorial claims. (Read: Why China calls it Huangyan Island

Diplomatic problem

The latest development reflects the view that the Scarborough Shoal dispute is diplomatic, not military, in nature. 

The word war between the two countries, along with the actual standoff between their ships, is now in its 4th week.

Mutual distrust has often characterized their talks, with one side accusing the other of breaking its word. 

Late last month, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs accused the Chinese embassy of relaying statements “contrary to reality” to Beijing.

Meanwhile, China's defense chief is visiting the United States to boost its military ties with the superpower that is seen to protect Philippine interests in the South China Sea.

Chinese Defense Ministry Liang Guanglie will discuss the South China Sea disputes, among other things, with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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