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Commendable restraint in face of provocations: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2024-02-18 19:13
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Ren'ai Reef [File photo/]

The series of provocations Manila has orchestrated in waters adjacent to China's Huangyan Island in the South China Sea over the past Chinese Lunar New Year holiday only serve to further erode Beijing's trust in Manila's sincerity in its recent assertion that it wanted to work together with China to secure a political settlement of the two countries' maritime disputes.

In its latest move calculated to ruin Beijing's festive mood, the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel 3005 illegally intruded into the adjacent waters of Huangyan Island, ignoring repeated warnings from the China Coast Guard. The CCG implemented measures in accordance with the law to compel the vessel to leave the area.

This is not the first time that the Chinese side had to expel Philippine vessels that illegally intruded into waters adjacent to the island in recent days. The CCG has had to respond to a Philippine Coast Guard vessel illegally intruding into the waters on multiple occasions from Feb 2 to 9. China holds indisputable sovereignty over Huangyan Island and its adjacent waters, and the CCG's actions are legitimate activities to enforce the law in China's jurisdictional waters. 

Were it not for the professionalism and restraint of the Chinese side, Manila's provocative moves might have easily escalated into skirmishes and even open conflict. Something Beijing is carefully trying to avoid but which Manila seems to covet, no doubt in the belief, however misplaced, that it has Washington's backing.

Although escalated tensions do not serve the interests of any regional country, including those of the Philippines, open conflict between China and the Philippines, in the eyes of Washington would serve the US' agenda of derailing China's development.

The joint statement released by Beijing and Manila during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr's visit to Beijing one year ago, and the series of cooperation projects the two sides have carried out ever since, clearly highlight the tremendous benefits the Philippines can draw from cooperation with China. Manila should take a more rational view of the US' intentions, as it only regards the Philippines as a useful piece on the board in its geopolitical game with China.

Thanks to the tacit consensus between China and the Philippines, their maritime disputes have been shelved for decades in favor of win-win cooperation. It is the US that has sought to sabotage this consensus. That's why Beijing has always exercised patience toward Manila, despite its provocations.

The Marcos government cites "security concerns" to justify its leveraging the US' desire to militarize the region as "security" for its breaking and entering activities. But barking dogs that bark for the sake of straining the leash are nothing but a nuisance.

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