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Manila's construction claim used to create regional support: experts
China rejected on Wednesday the Philippines' allegation that Beijing laid concrete blocks on Huangyan Island in the South China Sea.
Observers said Manila's intention in filing the accusation was to accuse China of changing the status quo because few countries or organizations have supported Manila's claim to the Chinese territory over the past years.
Philippine Defense Department spokesman Peter Galvez said on Tuesday that China laid 30 blocks on the island. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told parliament members that the concrete blocks were a "prelude to construction", AFP reported.
Manila's claim is "not in accordance with the facts", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday.
"Given the current situation, Chinese government vessels continue regular patrols in the waters off Huangyan Island to safeguard the sovereignty and order of the waters.
"It is unquestionable that this is China's lawful right and in China's interest," Hong said.
Li Guoqiang, deputy director of the Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Philippines is trying to tarnish China's image after Manila has failed at several international publicity stunts in a bluff for support.
"Actually it is impossible to construct a building on such a tiny island. Manila is eager to project the image that China violates the rules set by the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea," Li said.
The Philippines had never claimed the island and surrounding waters before 1997. Earlier Philippine government maps of the country did not even include it.
A serious impasse over the island's situation loomed last April after a warship from the Philippines entered China's territorial waters around the island, a traditional fishery for generations of Chinese fishermen.
Armed personnel from the warship boarded Chinese fishing boats and harassed unarmed fishermen for hours before Chinese government vessels arrived.
China since then has increased patrolling in the region.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said on Jan 26 that his government decided to seek international arbitration on the island's dispute with China.
Yang Baoyun, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Peking University, said the Philippines miscalculated the prospect of taking the case to the International Tribunal.
"China refused to respond to the lawsuit and Manila realized that it is increasingly unfavorable for it to seek a solution through international arbitration," Yang said.
Manila also failed to wedge the island issue into the agenda of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings, including an annual conference of foreign ministers from June 30 to July 2.
According to a joint statement issued after the meeting, ASEAN made it clear that the group saw the need to maintain the "positive momentum that has been achieved" in the interaction between ASEAN countries and China over the disputes in the South China Sea.
"Manila attempted to reframe the agenda and form an alliance to jointly deal with China. However, the China-ASEAN strategic partnership has become closer, and only few countries were interested in the unilateral claim," said Li from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul also said on Aug 29 that cooperation, rather than dispute, is the mainstream of the ASEAN-China relationship.