‘Manila's provocations in South China Sea to be responded with countermeasures’
Published: Jul 02, 2024 08:27 PM Updated: Jul 02, 2024 09:52 PM
A China Coast Guard vessel patrols the South China Sea on May, 16, 2024 Photo: VCG

A China Coast Guard vessel patrols the South China Sea on May, 16, 2024. Photo: VCG

The Philippines, in ignoring growing domestic calls for seeking constructive dialogues and consensus with China in tackling divergences on the South China Sea issue, has continued to make provocations not only in maritime issues but also in the legal sphere, for which China is fully prepared, and its moves that jeopardize China's legitimate interest will be responded with countermeasures.  

On Monday, three Philippine coast guard vessels attempted to supply personnel and materials to the Philippine coast guard vessel 9701 illegally stationed at the Xianbin Jiao. The whole process was closely monitored and controlled by China Coast Guard (CCG), Liu Dejun, spokesperson of the CCG said on Tuesday. 

China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, including Xianbin Jiao, and adjacent waters. 

The retention of Philippine ship at Xianbin Jiao violates China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, contravening the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and undermining peace and stability in the region, the spokesperson said. "China firmly opposes this behavior and the CCG will continue to conduct right protection law enforcement in its jurisdictional waters and safeguard national territorial sovereignty and maritime rights.''

After the infringement activities related to Huangyan Dao, also known as Huangyan Island and Ren'ai Jiao (Ren'ai Reef), were resolutely countered by the CCG, the Philippines has attempted to assert its presence at China's Xianbin Jiao.

Recent on-site images obtained by the Global Times showed that in addition to frequently transporting fresh water, fuel and food, the Philippines has also attempted to deliver building materials, suspected to be cement, to the illegally stationed Philippine Coast Guard ship at Xianbin Jiao. These actions by the Philippines warrant high vigilance.

The Philippines is employing alternating provocative tactics around Huangyan Dao, Ren'ai Jiao and Xianbin Jiao. As we blocked their provocations at Ren'ai Jiao, they may make infringing moves at Xianbin Jiao and stage another illegal grounding with their warship, Ding Duo, deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Law and Policy at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"We need to fully prepare for such potential provocations in these so-called gray zone areas," Ding said. 

Some experts pointed out that the Philippines' actions have strategic intentions. As Xianbin Jiao, located between Ren'ai Jiao and the Philippines' Palawan Island, is closer to the Philippine mainland. The Philippines intends to develop Xianbin Jiao into a maritime "base" for illegally supplying Ren'ai Jiao and a "foothold" for conducting infringement activities in the South China Sea, they noted. 

Besides its provocations in the South China Sea, the Philippines continued accusing China, and confused right and wrong, toward which China has clarified its stance. 

Philippine Rear Admiral Roy Vincent Trinidad, navy spokesperson on South China Sea issues, was quoted as saying in a Reuters' report on Tuesday that the CCG's actions against Philippine vessels on June 17 were the "most aggressive" in recent history. 

In response to a question regarding the matter at the regular press conference on Tuesday, Mao Ning, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that Ren'ai Jiao is China's territory. The root cause of the current situation is that the Philippines infringed on China's rights and made deliberate provocations. 

The Philippines needs to stop those infringement activities and provocations at once, and return as soon as possible to the track of resolving differences through dialogue and consultation, Mao said. 

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Chen Xiaodong and Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Theresa Lazaro co-chaired the 9th meeting of the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea (BCM) in Manila on Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. 

Both sides had candid and constructive exchanges on the South China Sea situation, particularly on managing the situation at Ren'ai Jiao. China reiterated its sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, including Ren'ai Jiao, and adjacent waters, asserting its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over relevant maritime areas, the ministry said.

China urged the Philippines to immediately stop maritime infringements and provocative actions, and to abide by the provisions of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), urging the Philippines to return to dialogue and consultation to properly handle disputes. 

They acknowledged that maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea serves the interests of both countries and is a common goal of regional countries. They agreed to continue dialogue and consultation through mechanisms like the BCM to manage contradictions and differences. 

During the meeting, both sides also exchanged views on enhancing maritime communication mechanisms, promoting dialogue between their coast guards, and advancing cooperation in marine science, technology, and environmental protection. 

Growing calls 

Rising tensions between China and the Philippines due to the latter's provocations also worry many Filipinos. "As a Filipino and as an Asian, I don't want my country to be a battleground," Raul Lambino, Chairman of the Association for Philippines-China Understanding, said in a recent conference commemorating the 70th anniversary of Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in Beijing. 

Lambino's remarks struck a chord with many participants at the conference. 

Also, 33 major Filipino Chinese business and civic organizations, led by the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII), fervently advocate for the de-escalation of territorial disputes, urging these issues to be addressed through diplomatic channels and constructive dialogue among friends.

"The recent misunderstandings regarding maritime territory have become increasingly concerning, with the potential to unnecessarily escalate into a crisis that could destabilize the economic development of the Philippines, China, and the broader Asian region," FFCCCII President Dr Cecilio K. Pedro told the Global Times. 

A peaceful resolution to the sea dispute is essential for Philippine economic development, to prevent the erosion of traditionally strong bilateral relations between the Philippines and China which could also negatively affect both our two countries and the wider Asian region, Pedro said.   

"I believe the vast majority of Filipinos, particularly those of us in the business sector, are deeply invested in upholding peace and stability to ensure unimpeded and sustainable economic development," he added. 

To be met with countermeasures   

The Philippines filed a claim with the UN to an extended continental shelf as it seeks recognition to its entitlements beyond its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, and it has welcomed Vietnam's recognition of its UN filing, Reuters reported on Monday. 

However, Malaysia opposed the Philippine submission to the UN, saying it is projected from the baselines of Sabah, according to media reports. 

These current confrontations, note verbales, and statements reflect that the disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation in the South China Sea are very complicated and cannot be resolved by unilateral actions, such as unilaterally submitting delimitation applications or through international judicial and arbitration procedure, Ding said. 

"If the disputant countries attempt to exclude China in their bilateral negotiations and consultations, it's unrealistic," the expert said. 

Also, according to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) rules, submissions involving disputes will not be considered. Thus, the Philippines' request for delimitation beyond 200 nautical miles is unlikely to be reviewed substantively and will probably be deferred or suspended, Ding noted. 

The Philippines' suggestion to consider delimitation or negotiations for the South China Sea continental shelf with certain disputant countries is an attempt to legitimize the illegal award of the so-called South China Sea arbitration, some experts said. 

"They believe that the ruling has resolved the disputes, clarifying the areas of contention and respective claims, and that China has no legitimate claims. Hence, they seek to exclude China from maritime delimitation talks, negotiating directly with other disputant countries," Ding said. 

"Such approach poses certain risks to our claims. Although it won't substantively impact our legal claims, it might have negative political, diplomatic, and public opinion consequences. We will take effective countermeasures," the expert said.