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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid