Manila response unfair

Updated: 2011-10-20 08:06

(China Daily)

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IT IS NO EXAGGERATION TO SAY THAT THE Philippines has been feverishly raising the temperature of the South China Sea issue.

It started its 11-day war games with the United States on Monday and pointed a finger at the agreement reached between China and Vietnam last week on maritime issues.

And its claim that the military drills - some 3,000 US and Filipino troops are conducting amphibious landing exercises, including a hostile beach assault exercise near the disputed waters - have nothing to do with the South China Sea issue is not convincing.

As to Beijing and Hanoi's commitment to keep their disputes over the maritime territory at bay and solve them through bilateral negotiations and friendly consultation, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III apparently has other ideas. On Oct 12, he called on the countries involved in the maritime territorial disputes to approach the matter multilaterally through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Being involved in maritime disputes with China does not grant Manila the right to interfere in the bilateral agreement between Beijing and Hanoi. The Chinese Foreign Ministry was prompted to call on other countries to respect the agreement between China and Vietnam on Monday and stressed that the Sino-Vietnamese agreement has nothing to do with a third party.

Recently several Southeast Asian nations have become involved in maritime disputes with China over the South China Sea. The magnitude of the disputes is simply that they are complicated and sensitive. China always insists on solving each dispute at the bilateral level as they stem from different causes and have evolved in different ways over the years.

The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea endorses bilateral negotiations between sovereign states directly involved in the disputes, and China and ASEAN agreed new guidelines in July in Bali, Indonesia, on implementing the declaration.

As a member state of ASEAN, the Philippines should honor its commitment to letter. Its call for a multilateral approach runs counter to the agreement between China and ASEAN and strikes a dissonant note in the region.

As Manila's real intention is to draw support from countries outside the region, such as the US and Japan, the multilateral approach will only further complicate the issue and bring more trouble to already troubled waters.

A handful of countries from outside the region seem willing to meddle in the South China Sea issue in pursuit of their own interests. But if they are so keen to play a role in the region, they should contribute to regional peace and stability, and respect nations within the region that are making efforts to solve disputes through bilateral talks and negotiations.

(China Daily 10/20/2011 page8)