PHL Slams China for Questioning its Actions in the West Philippine Sea
The Philippines on Wednesday shot back at China for questioning its action to bring journalists to Manila-claimed Pag-asa Island off the South China Sea, insisting it has “full sovereignty” over the feature.
“We have all the right to do such actions and no one can question it because we own it,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in the latest trade of diplomatic barbs with China.
Led by Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, local journalists visited Pag-asa Island on Monday, sparking criticisms from Beijing, which claims nearly 90 percent of the resource-rich waters, including areas that fall within the country’s sovereignty.
Beijing called the Philippines a “rule-violator” and “troublemaker” for arranging the trip to the island also known by its international name, Thitu.
China’s Foreign Ministry said the Philippines was endangering international law, a Reuters report said.
“China has made clear on many occasions that it opposes the Philippines’ futile and illegal occupation,” said ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. “The reality of the situation has again proven the Philippines to be a rule-violator and a troublemaker.”
Jose maintained that no violation was committed by the Philippines.
“It is not a violation because Pag-asa is within our sovereign territory,” he said.
For his part, Armed Forces Western Command chief Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez said that China could do the same and invite media to the islands where they started reclamation work.
“We tried to be as transparent as we can to further emphasize ‘yung policy ng administration na we are compliant doon sa declaration of code of conduct. So the foreign media was there, the Chinese media was there. They have seen for themselves na wala tayong ginagawa. We were compliant. Kumbaga, we respected the provision, unlike China,” he said.
Lopez reiterated that there is nothing wrong with sending media to Pag-asa since the trip was part of Catapang’s schedule.
“In the first place, automatic ‘yan basta kung saan pumunta si chief of staff eh may bitbit na media ‘yun, ‘yun lang naman ‘yun,” he added.
Manila and Beijing have been locked in years-long conflict over South China Sea territories, where undersea gas and oil deposits have been discovered in several areas.
It also pointed out that it was China who violated international law for undertaking massive and rapid reclamation of seven features in the waters, including those that are within Philippine waters.
China’s reclamation in the South China Sea, Manila said, is not only illegal, but is intended to advance its so-called nine-dash line claim which covers almost the entire waters.
Other governments, such as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, also have overlapping claims with China in the South China Sea which analysts feared as Asia’s next potential flashpoint for a major armed conflict. By MICHAELA DEL CALLAR May 13, 2015 2:31pm/with Tricia Macas/KG/RSJ, GMA News