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Philippine island complaints groundless

2015-04-29 10:28:08       source:Global Times


Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has recently alleged that Chinese coast guards boarded two Philippine fishing boats in the waters of Huangyan Island and that the fishermen were "threatened" with a gun before their fish were taken and their fishing equipment was destroyed. The Chinese Commercial News, a daily Philippine newspaper written in Chinese, pounced upon this chance, claiming that China's blockade around the waters of Huangyan Island has resulted in a sharp decrease in the fishing catch.

Ostensibly, it is easy for the Philippine allegation to solicit sympathy from the international community. However, with a deep analysis, it's not hard to see that he who first offends first complains, which is fundamentally intended to confuse the public, shape international opinion, and create the false impression of a weak Philippines being bullied by a strong China. Such attempts are ultimately made to cover up their ulterior political purposes.

Philippine reports have deliberately ignored the ownership of Huangyan Island. We need to probe into history to answer this key question. In fact, the Philippines must know China's sovereignty over Huangyan Island is based on sufficient historical and legal grounds. As early as the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), China discovered Huangyan Island and other insular features in the South China Sea.

The Genglubu (Book of Changing Routes), an ancient Chinese navigation log, records Chinese fishing activities in the South China Sea and gives a detailed description of the names and locations of the insular features in the South China Sea. In 1935, the Land and Water Mapping Review Committee of then Chinese government approved and published The Chinese and English Names of the South China Sea Islands, and Huangyan Island was marked as part of the Zhongsha Islands of Chinese territory.

In each following version of Chinese maps, Huangyan Island has been an inseparable part of Chinese territory and has been under the continuous administration of the Chinese government. By contrast, the Philippine claim of sovereignty over Huangyan Island is neither reasonable nor legitimate. In 2009, the Philippines unilaterally amended its laws on territorial sea baselines and incorporated Huangyan Island into its territory. In 2012, the Philippines instigated the Huangyan Island standoff.

After unilaterally instigating the Huangyan Island standoff, the Philippines has never ceased its harassment. It has frequently dispatched its paramilitary coast guards to the waters of Huangyan Island for so-called law enforcement and to aid fishing activities in disputed waters. In 2013, the Philippines unilaterally submitted its dispute with China to international arbitration in an attempt to invalidate China's inherent rights over the South China Sea islands and relevant waters and put a semblance of legitimacy on its unlawful claims.

Such attempts, however, are doomed to fail. In the long run, China will not stop regular law enforcement efforts in the waters of Huangyan Island because of hypocritical complaints on the part of the Philippines. Nor will the international community affected by their unreasonable demands.

If the Philippines hopes to properly handle the South China Sea disputes and improve bilateral ties, it must face up to historical facts, adopt a future-oriented approach and stop stirring up trouble. It should also respect China's territorial sovereignty and endeavor to fully implement the consensuses reached bilaterally as well as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (2002).

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay has stated that if he wins the presidential election next year, he will try to improve China-Philippines ties and push for a joint venture with China to explore oil and gas in the South China Sea. If things go this way, then the bilateral ties will see a big turnaround and the disputes will be brought under the right framework of "shelving disputes for joint development." This scenario will benefit people from both countries. We are looking forward to the right choice by the Philippine government and people.

The author is deputy director of the Research Centre for Oceans Law and Policy of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

This article is available at http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/919281.shtml

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