News / Asia

Philippines-China Tensions Foreshadow Upcoming ASEAN Meet

Riot police stand guard as protesters hold up a large anti-China banner outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, east of Manila, Philippines, July 24, 2013.
Riot police stand guard as protesters hold up a large anti-China banner outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, east of Manila, Philippines, July 24, 2013.
Simone Orendain
Officials with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China are set to meet on Saturday and Sunday to discuss territorial tensions in the South China Sea. The long-awaited meeting in Suzhou, China comes as the Philippines and China continue their heated rhetoric about conflicting claims in the resource rich waters. 

The latest sore spot between Manila and Beijing was the Philippine Defense department’s discovery last week of 75 concrete blocks at Scarborough Shoal- allegedly laid there by China.  Defense officials call them a “prelude to construction.”

The outcropping is about 200 kilometers west of the northern Philippines and more than 800 kilometers southeast of China.  It was the site of a tense standoff last year when ships from both countries faced each other.  The Philippines said China roped off the popular fishing area and its surveillance and military ships have since kept Filipino fishermen out.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Thursday the department was “still studying options” on what to do about the blocks as it focused on gathering evidence in an arbitration case against China.  He said the blocks’ presence at the shoal would have an impact on the talks this weekend.

“Yes, I think that’s a significant part of it.  You need a code, obviously, for managing the tensions there,” he said.



​China claims practically the entire South China Sea.  The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have partial or total claims to the waters that are heavily traveled, rich in abundant fishing with potentially major hydrocarbon reserves.

ASEAN and China signed a declaration 11 years ago on how they would conduct themselves should disputes arise over the competing claims.  But the declaration is not legally binding and the Philippines, which has complained of multiple intrusions into its waters, has been calling for something stronger. 

China has taken the position that it would move “when the time is ripe.”  And this year it signaled it would take up consultations toward a more binding agreement.

A Philippine Navy special operations group on board speed boats patrols off Subic Bay, facing the South China Sea, August 6, 2013.A Philippine Navy special operations group on board speed boats patrols off Subic Bay, facing the South China Sea, August 6, 2013.
x
A Philippine Navy special operations group on board speed boats patrols off Subic Bay, facing the South China Sea, August 6, 2013.
A Philippine Navy special operations group on board speed boats patrols off Subic Bay, facing the South China Sea, August 6, 2013.
At the beginning of the year, the Philippines filed an arbitration case with a United Nations tribunal over what it calls China’s “excessive claims” to the sea.  China, which has always pressed for one-on-one talks with no outside party involvement, has rejected the bid.

On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters the Philippines’ allegations about the blocks at Scarborough Shoal, which China calls Huangyan Island, were “completely fabricated.”

He said, “What we would like to stress is that Chinese activities around the Huangyan Islands and surrounding waters are completely within Chinese sovereignty. We ask the Philippines to stop provocative actions, to see eye-to-eye with China, and protect the peace and stability in the South China Sea."

Rommel Banloai said right now Philippine-China relations were “sour.”  He is executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.  Banlaoi said heading into this weekend’s meeting the Philippines would face challenges as it pushed for an actual code of conduct (COC).

“ASEAN remains very, very soft on the issue.  I think ASEAN has already made a position and that is not very close to the original position of the Philippine government,” he said.

Banlaoi said not all members of ASEAN “had the same apprehension as the Philippines” over China’s presence in the disputed waters.  Just four of the 10 ASEAN countries have claims in the sea.

Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Senior Fellow Ian Storey said he did not expect China to have any “breakthroughs at this meeting.” 

“So they’ll seek to draw out this process for as long as possible and use all the stalling tactics they can to make sure this… is dragged out for as long as possible,” he said.

Storey expected this “long process” would result in “another symbolic document that does not really mitigate tensions or alter the central drivers of the dispute.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary del Rosario said there was “consensus and solidarity” among ASEAN senior officials in urging China toward an “expeditious conclusion” to the COC and that he was hopeful China would act.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More