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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid