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Aquino right on China’s growing aggressiveness over disputed areas

MANILA -- China’s growing economic and political clout should be a matter of concern since its huge territorial claims have already covered areas belonging to other nations such as the Philippines, an administration ally said.

President Benigno Aquino III noted on Monday China’s persistent claim to islands in the West Philippine Sea and recently the Scarborough Shoal, which is within the country’s internationally recognized exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“They claim this entire body of water practically. Look at what is excluded and what they are claiming. So how can the others not be fearful of what is transpiring?” the President said.

Reacting to this statement, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero said it is good that the President showed the world that the country will not be cowed by the perceived bullying of China, Asia’s most powerful nation.

“The President will not just sit idly on this. I think it was just right for him to defend our independence and integrity over the shoal,” he told reporters.

The three-week-old standoff at the resource-rich area stemmed after the Philippine Navy apprehended suspected Chinese poachers, who were later rescued by responding Chinese military vessels.

China, which calls the shoal as Huangyan Island, used historical data to back up its claim but maps dating back to the 18th century would show that the shoal was referred to by American and British explorers as part of the Philippine archipelago.

Scarborough is also 124 nautical miles away from the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, which is part of the 200-nautical mile EEZ as guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

China has since slammed the Philippines for asking members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to take a common stand on the issue as it snubbed Manila’s invitation to resolve the dispute before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos).

The issue is expected to be raised by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in a bilateral meeting next week with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Washington.

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Virgil Lopez | SunStar.Com.Ph | April 26, 2012 | Article Link

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