Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Philippines Checks Report of 'Harassment' Near China-Controlled Reef

In a press briefing yesterday, former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accused her successor of provoking China and triggering the latter's island building frenzy in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

"As far as I am concerned, President Duterte knows what he is doing and I have no recommendation to make. The area is near Gaven Reef where China has a structure", he added.

Back-to-back meetings between ASEAN leaders will be held next week in the Philippines, after which President Rodrigo R. Duterte is expected to come up with a Chairman's Statement.

"There was, during that time, a joint seismic survey which was a joint effort of the Philippines, China, and Vietnam that meant the cost of the survey was borne by the three countries, with the understanding that the results or information that will be gathered will be shared [among] the three countries", he said.

In his remarks, Mendoza, Arroyo's defense lawyer in the plunder case she just won at the Supreme Court, maintained that it was the Aquino administration's arbitral case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration that triggered China's island building spree in the disputed waters.

The G7 ministers encourage dialogues based on global law towards early finalization of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) and we welcome efforts to advance in this direction.

"To me, up to now it (Manila's maritime protest) is a source of enquiry on why we filed the arbitral claim".

"In effect, we were fighting in The Hague, but China was winning the seas. Before, I don't remember China having such claims as nine-dash line", said the lawyer, a former justice minister and solicitor general during the Marcos administration.

"Our strategic direction is to emphasize our economic relations (with China) and transcend matters and issues between us", Arroyo said. Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims, and occupy some islets and reefs in the Spratly archipelago.

Mendoza also credited the Arroyo administration for passing Republic Act 9522, which defined the country's baselines upon which the country's maritime claims were based. Chinese in the past have fired water cannon at vessels of other countries in the area.

Mendoza recalled that China opposed the inclusion of Kalayaan and Scarborough Shoal but did not oppose the baselines law as a whole.

The Chinese Coast Guard has chased away Filipino fishermen from Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea although after President Duterte's state visit to Beijing previous year, Filipino fishermen were able to ply their trade in the area even if Chinese vessels remained nearby.

"Definitely the South China Sea-West Philippine Sea issue remains among the important topics that would be discussed by the leaders", Mr. Bolivar said.

MANILA-The Philippines is optimistic that the framework for a code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea will be completed within the country's chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit this year.

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