Philippines, China agree to avoid unilateral action in S China Sea
MANILA DEFENCE ministers from the Philippines and China agreed on Monday to avoid unilateral action that may fuel tension in the South China Sea as Manila said the site of two recent incidents was unquestionably its territory.
Last week, media reported two Chinese MiG fighter jets were seen intruding in Philippine air space by an air force patrol over Reed Bank near Palawan Island, two months after Manila said Chinese boats had harassed a survey ship there.
Philippine Defence Minister Voltaire Gazmin said his Chinese counterpart, General Liang Guanglie, told him that China had no MiG fighters.
Liang did not say whether other Chinese fighters were on patrol over disputed areas of the South China Sea.
Gazmin said the Philippines was not accusing China of violating its air space because there were no clear identification of the aircraft.
“Both ministers acknowledge the need to ensure that the South China Sea remains stable,” the ministers said in a statement after meeting at a main army base in Manila.
“Both ministers recognised that unilateral action which could cause alarm should be avoided.” The South China Sea covers an area of more than 648,000 sq miles (1.7 million sq km), containing more than 200 mostly uninhabitable small islands, rocks and reefs.
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim territories in the sea, which covers an important shipping route and is thought to hold untapped oil and gas reserves.
Last month, the Philippines protested to the United Nations over China’s claim to disputed areas, saying China’s position had no basis under international law.
In March, the Philippines filed a protest with China over an incident in which Manila says two Chinese patrol boats threatened to ram a survey ship near Reed Bank.
The Philippines says Reed Bank is not part of the Spratly Islands, known in the Philippines as the Kayalaan Group of Islands.
“It has always been an integral part of our national territory, and not subject to negotiation,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.
He said the confusion appeared to have been caused by a 2005- 2008 Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU), when the previous administration had sought Chinese assistance to help survey the area.
Lacierda said Manila “prefers to thoroughly review any proposed future undertakings to ensure that they will adhere to the Philippine position on our territory and our preferred mode for resolving existing claims in other areas”.