Declaring “that’s our territory” and giving a warning to Chinese vessels to back off, the Philippine officials last Wednesday disregarded China’s demand to remove Filipino vessels from Panatag Shoal.
BRP Edsa, a Philippine Coast Guard search and rescue vessel, along with an archaeological survey mission aboard the MY Sarangani and a fishing boat was remained in the area, facing off two Chinese maritime surveillance vessels and a fishing boat.
Last Monday an order was demanded by China that all Filipino vessels should be out or clear the area, which then calls Huangyan Island and which is known internationally as Scarborough Shoal, and also sent an aircraft to buzz a Philippine fishing boat in the second, such incident happened since Saturday.
According to Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, “We’re also telling their ships to do the same,” he told the reporters. “That’s our territory and we’re also saying the same thing to their ships.”
Carandang said talks between the Philippines and China were continuing. “Tensions have not degenerated,” he said, and the fact “that not a shot has been fired is already a sign that the situation is not deteriorating.”
Arbitration call ignored
Philippines and China have decided to settle the argument diplomatically but have both asserted on their ownership of the shoal, extending an eight-day deadlock on the high seas.
Last Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, asked China to bring the debate to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for negotiation. The Chinese embassy, though, disregarded the proposal and asked the Philippines to extract its vessels from the shoal “and restore peace and stability there.”
The latest standoff between Manila and Beijing over disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) began on April 8 when a Philippine Navy plane spotted eight Chinese fishing boats in Panatag, a cluster of reefs and islands around a lagoon.
BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, the Philippine Navy flagship was transmitted to the area on April 10 and its officials boarded the fishing boats, but Chinese maritime surveillance vessel interposed. The fishing boats glided last Friday night.
The argument is just one of a countless claims over islands, reefs and shoals in the South China Sea that quarry china against the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
Conflict has increased in the past 2 years over worries that China is becoming more aggressive in its claims to the sea that overlaps shipping lanes between East Asia and Europe also the Middle East.
Even though supplicant countries have vowed to fix the territorial gaps peacefully, the arguments have vented in violence in the past which includes the 1988 when China and Vietnam collided in the Spratly Islands in a defiance that killed 64 Vietnamese soldiers. Many fear the disagreements that became Asia’s next flash point for armed conflict.
Vietnam held a maritime ceremony last Monday near the area where the event happened to remember the dead soldiers, state-controlled media reported.
Numerous rounds of talks have failed to end the impasse at Panatag, which is 872 kilometer from Hainan province, China’s next-door territory to the shoal.
Ancient Chinese shipwreck
Zhang Hua, Chinese embassy spokesperson, acknowledged that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or Unclos, permits countries to claim an exclusive economic zone but was then reported that Philippines could not exercise sovereignty on areas within those waters that are owned by other countries.
One ancient Chinese shipwreck could be found at Panatag, but the Philippine research ship has no right to rescue it, Zhang said. “We urge the archaeological vessel to leave the area immediately,” Zhang said in a statement.
‘We will not leave’
In an interview with the reporters last Wednesday, Defense Secretary Voltaire De Gazmin called on Filipinos to come together and let the world know that ”we are being bullied” by China.
Also on Wednesday, Bayan Muna Representatives Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares filed a resolution condemning China and calling for an inquiry into the government’s failure to assert sovereignty over the shoal.
“We also do not want to go to war, but we must assert our sovereignty, through whatever means we can,” Casiño said.
On Tuesday, Gazmin said, “We will fight for what is ours. We are in the area and we will not leave while we continue the talks” between the DFA and Chinese authorities.