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Manila sabotaging consensus with its antics: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2024-02-26 20:40
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Ren'ai Reef [File photo/]

Incited by the United States' attempts to muddy the waters of the South China Sea surrounding the Philippines' maritime disputes with China, some Philippine politicians seem bewitched by the illusion that Washington's support will help the Philippines gain the upper hand in the disputes. As a result, they have grown increasingly bolder and more brazen recently in testing Beijing's bottom line.

According to a spokesperson for the China Coast Guard, Chinese maritime law enforcement authorities drove away a Philippine government vessel that illegally intruded into Chinese waters in the South China Sea. BRP Datu Sanday, a vessel of the Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, intruded into waters near China's Huangyan Island on Thursday and Friday in defiance of the "repeated dissuasion and warnings" given by the CCG. It was later expelled from the waters after the Chinese maritime law enforcement agency took "necessary measures".

This was only the latest of a series of similar incidents as Manila seeks to further internationalize the historical maritime disputes, and may not be the last. The South China Sea disputes are legacies of history whose resolution calls for patient scrutiny of past and present realities as well as international laws and conventions. The Code of Conduct Beijing and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are drafting is a constructive collective endeavor for the peaceful resolution of the territorial disputes, not only between China and the Philippines but for all the disputes in the South China Sea.

The impressive headway made in that direction is evidence that countries in the region are fully capable of handling such legacies of history in a calm and reasonable way if left to their own devices and are capable of working together to promote regional peace and prosperity. Manila's recent interest in amplifying the tensions and their international visibility is an opportunistic attempt to fish for gains at the expense of the regional consensus that the disputes should not derail regional development.

That Manila wants to sugarcoat its provocative actions with the veneer of respectability is evidenced by the Philippine vessel operating with a heavy media presence onboard. But as the China Coast Guard spokesperson said, its response was professional and in strict accordance with law, leaving no doubt about which party is stirring up trouble. Given the historical and jurisprudential basis of Beijing's sovereignty claim to the disputed territory, no theatrics can gloss over the dirty antics Manila is staging under the US' orchestration.

Sooner or later, Manila will realize that it has little to gain, but a lot to lose by dancing to Washington's tune and that the best way out of the predicament it is putting itself in is to continue negotiating the multilateral Code of Conduct.

If Manila continues with its present approach, it will only end up poisoning the atmosphere for the peaceful resolution of the disputes. That will serve no party in the region any good.

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