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China sea claims threat to Asia peace: Manila
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Aug 5, 2011

China's bold claims of control over the South China Sea are one of the biggest threats to peace in Southeast Asia, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario warned Friday.

The threat concerns not only the rival claimants to the hotly contested area, but also all other entities using the waters for shipping, he said in a speech at a Manila university.

Chinese naval vessels have fired warning volleys at Filipino fishermen, harassed an oil exploration vessel and put up markers on Philippine waters this year after China outlined its "9-dash claim" to the sea in 2009, he said.

"If Philippine sovereign rights can be denigrated by this baseless claim, many countries should begin to contemplate the potential threat to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea," he said.

"The imperative to speak frankly was borne out of an enormous sense of exigency and urgency... to one of the greatest threats to the stability of our progressive Southeast Asian neighbourhood."

Tensions have risen in recent months, with countries in the region claiming China has been more aggressive in enforcing its claims on parts of the South China Sea.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims to all or parts of the sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits.

Del Rosario repeated calls for UN arbitration on the disputes and for all claimants to jointly develop disputed sections, while asserting Manila's sovereign right to explore for oil and gas deposits on its own in the sea's Reed Bank section.

The Philippine energy department announced plans this week to auction off areas of the South China Sea for oil exploration, despite worsening territorial rows with China, which prefers bilateral talks on the disputes.

The Filipino plan drew an angry response from China's official media, which accused the Philippines of violating a 2002 declaration between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for self-restraint on the dispute.

A China Daily editorial on Friday pointedly singled out the Philippines as it said the Chinese government would not allow its territory to be nibbled away.

"There could well be a high price to pay for any misjudgment on the South China Sea issue by countries like the Philippines," it said.

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China media warns Manila on military in Spratlys
Beijing (AFP) Aug 5, 2011 - Chinese media on Friday warned the Philippines against building up its military presence in disputed areas of the South China Sea, amid a deepening rift between the two countries.

A strongly worded editorial in the China Daily accused Manila of infringing "China's territorial integrity" and said the Philippines could pay "a high price" for misjudging the issue.

The Philippines was "not taking seriously" an agreement struck by Beijing and Association of Southeast Asian Nations members in Indonesia last month "to solve the maritime disputes in peace", the English language newspaper said.

The editorial came after a weekend Philippine Star newspaper report that the Philippine navy would soon complete a shelter to "protect troops guarding and securing the country's maritime domain" on an island claimed by both countries.

The shell-like structure the navy began building in May is on an island called Patag by the Philippines and Feixin by China -- part of the Spratlys chain which is also wholly or partially claimed by Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Tensions in the decades-old dispute escalated this year amid accusations from the Philippines and Vietnam that China was becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims to the sea, which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea.

Manila has accused Chinese forces of harassing an oil exploration vessel and shooting at Filipino fishermen.

The Philippine navy is awaiting the arrival of a newly-purchased US-built coast guard ship the Star said would be used to "secure natural resources" -- which the China Daily said have been tapped in "illegal" projects.

"What Manila has done not only constitutes an infringement of China's territorial integrity but also runs counter to ASEAN's stance and the spirit of the guidelines," for implementing ASEAN's 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

"There could well be a high price to pay for any misjudgment on the South China Sea issue by countries like the Philippines," the editorial said.

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