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China Daily Global / 2021-04 / 08 / Page011

Manila nets only frictions with reef spat

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-04-08 00:00

In an apparent move to end the spat that has arisen between the Philippines and China, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a statement on Tuesday that Manila will seek to resolve the issue through diplomatic channels and through peaceful means.

Tensions have risen after a large fleet of Chinese fishing vessels took shelter from adverse weather around a reef in the South China Sea, with a number of high-ranking officials from Duterte's government making waves about it.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called for the Chinese "maritime militia" to leave the area and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs lodged a diplomatic protest with China, saying the vessels infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, despite the fact that Niu'e reef is part of China's Nansha Islands and the waters around the reef are a traditional fishing ground for Chinese fishermen.

The Philippine Foreign Ministry even cited its South China Sea arbitration and the so-called award in favor to deny the status of the reef and its adjacent waters as traditional fishing grounds for Chinese fishermen.

But as China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian pointed out on Monday, the award from the South China Sea Arbitration Tribunal is illegal and invalid. Manila clearly knows that China does not recognize it and firmly opposes any claims and actions based on the award.

The attempt by the Philippines to use an illegal and invalid ruling to deny China's sovereignty and rights in the South China Sea violates the United Nations Charter and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Those ill-intentioned people in Manila should stop making a farce about the normal practice of Chinese fishing boats sheltering near the reef from rough sea conditions.

Thanks to efforts from both sides in recent years, the South China Sea disputes have been successfully quelled, which has in turn formed the basis for the regional endeavor to negotiate a Code of Conduct in order to build lasting peace and stability in the waters.

The recent spat over Niu'e reef should not overshadow the larger picture of ties. Neither should it undercut the two sides' efforts in recent years to build peace and stability in the waters.

Reigniting the maritime dispute will be both unwise and counterproductive to the Philippines as it has everything to gain from joining hands with China to safeguard and nourish the hard-won results in advancing bilateral ties.

It is hoped that the Philippines will take an objective and correct view and stick to the right track of properly managing differences so as to avoid negative impacts on bilateral relations and peace and stability in the South China Sea.


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