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November 12, 2013

Chinese Newspaper: Don't Let Island Dispute Affect Philippine Aid

by VOA News

A Chinese newspaper said that Beijing should not let a territorial dispute influence its decision to send relief aid to the typhoon-hit Philippines.

Beijing's foreign ministry on Monday announced its plans to send $100,000 to help the Philippines recover from a typhoon that left thousands dead. The Chinese Red Cross later said it would also send $100,000.

That aid figure is smaller than what China has provided countries, including the Philippines, during some past natural disasters. It comes as Beijing is involved in an increasingly heated dispute with Manila over islands in the energy-rich South China Sea.

An editorial in China's Global Times Tuesday urged the government not to let the dispute affect its decision to help the Philippines. The Communist Party-run paper said China's global image is of "vital importance" and warned of "great losses" if Beijing snubs Manila.

China, which has the world's second largest economy, has gradually taken on a larger role in international disaster relief efforts.

In one such recent instance, China offered over $5 million in aid to its ally Pakistan following a deadly earthquake in September. Beijing has also provided more aid to Manila during times of friendlier ties. In 2011, it offered over a million dollars after a tropical storm hit the southern Philippines.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang would not answer Monday when asked whether the latest aid package was influenced by the Philippines territorial dispute.

The countries have long-standing overlapping claims in the South China Sea, though tensions have grown much worse in recent months. Last year, Chinese and Philippine ships were involved in a weeks-long standoff at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, an uninhabited archipelago.

The Philippines eventually backed down, leaving China in control of the area. However, Manila later angered China by taking the case to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.

The dispute has not only led to a deterioration in government ties, but also negatively affected people-to-people relations. On Tuesday, following news that China had offered to help the Philippines, many Chinese social media users reacted negatively, saying Beijing should not be sending any aid to hostile countries.

Over 10,000 people are feared dead after Typhoon Haiyan swept across the central Philippines late last week. The storm later moved to southern China, where it killed at least seven people.