Aquino calls for solidarity in face of China threat
Philippine president Benigno Aquino has refused to give ground in a building territorial dispute with China, asking Beijing to respect Manila’s rights in the South China Sea and announcing plans to upgrade military capabilities.
Addressing a joint session of the Philippine Congress yesterday for the third time since his election in 2010, Mr Aquino asked the Filipino people to unite behind his government’s efforts to resolve the dispute peacefully.
“If someone enters your yard and told you he owns it, will you allow that?,” he said.
“It’s not right to give away what is rightfully ours. And so I ask for solidarity from our people regarding this issue. Let us speak with one voice”
Some Philippine senators have suggested that the Aquino administration tone down its rhetoric and quietly negotiate a compromise with China. A senator has described the lopsided feud as a clash “between a mosquito and a dragon”.
The South China Sea has become Asia’s biggest potential military flashpoint as Beijing’s sovereignty claim over the huge area has set it against Vietnam and the Philippines, as the three countries race to tap huge oil reserves believed to lie under the seabed. Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have made claims.
Mr Aquino said the Philippines had shown restraint by pulling out its navy ship and replacing it with a civilian vessel when Chinese fishing boats entered Scarborough Shoal, which lies in the South China Sea about 124 nautical miles west of the main Philippine island of Luzon.
The Philippines insists it has sole jurisdiction over the uninhabited shoal because it lies within the country’s 200 mile exclusive economic zone.
Mr Aquino also announced plans under a 75 billion-peso (£1.2bn) military modernisation fund to acquire a refurbished frigate, C-130 planes, utility and combat helicopters, communication equipment, rifles and mortars.
“This is not about picking a fight. This is not about bullying. This is about attaining peace. This is about our capability to defend ourselves,” he said.
About 6,000 police officers were deployed to secure the House of Representatives, where Mr Aquino spoke, and nearby roads.
Several people were injured when riot police clashed with thousands of left-wing and trade union protesters who were seeking higher wages, land reform and a halt to alleged human rights violations.
Philippine defence and military officials say they are worried by China’s “creeping imposition” of its claims in disputed areas in the South China Sea.
The two countries have faced off on a number of occasions in the disputed waters, and earlier in the year they were involved in a month-long stand-off at Scarborough Shoal.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 22 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North