Comme je l’écrivais il y a deux jours, suite aux incidents de Scarborough, sur mon blog www.frenchlivinginthphilippines, le ‘’Dragon’’ montre ses griffes.

Nous venons hier 17 avril de passer à un cran supérieur dans la crise.

La Chine demande maintenant officiellement aux navires Philippins de se retirer de ce qu'elle considère comme ses eaux territoriales.
Comment cela va-t-il finir sachant que Philippins et Américains sont en train de mener des exercices maritimes conjoints exactement dans cette zone ?

China has asked all Philippine vessels to leave immediately Panatag Shoal and sent a
second aircraft buzzing over the area to scare away Filipino fishermen, officials said

On Monday night, the Chinese Embassy in Manila insisted that Panatag, which it calls
Huangyan Island and which is internationally known as Scarborough Shoal, belongs to

“As of now we still have a standoff because we are told to leave but we won’t leave, and
we tell them to leave but they don’t want to leave,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin
said. He admitted the presence of the Chinese ships was affecting activities of Filipino

Gazmin said the Philippines will not give ground. “We will fight for what is ours. We are in
the area and we will not leave while we continue the talks between our Department of
Foreign Affairs and Chinese authorities,” he said.

“It is China that first discovered this island, gave it the name, incorporated it into its
territory, and exercised jurisdiction over it,” the embassy said.

“The Philippine territory is set by a series of international treaties, including the Treaty of
Paris (1898), the Treaty of Washington (1900) and the treaty with Great Britain (1930),
none of which ever referred to Huangyan Island or included this island into its territory.”
Raul Hernandez, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, insisted that Panatag
Shoal is part of the coastal town of Masinloc in Zambales. He also told the Philippine
Daily Inquirer that the DFA  would “continue to reach a diplomatic solution to the

Gazmin told reporters on Tuesday that an aircraft flew low over a Filipino fishing vessel in
Panatag on Monday afternoon.

“We could not identify the aircraft but we are certain that it was a Chinese aircraft that
went buzzing,” he said. “They were told to leave the area.” Buzzing in military terms
means flying less than 500 feet over a target.

It was the second such incident since April 10 when the Philippine Navy flagship BRP
Gregorio del Pilar was dispatched to the area to investigate illegal poaching by eight
Chinese fishing boats but was stopped by two Chinese maritime vessels.

Diplomatic protest

The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest over the Chinese buzzing of a
Philippine-commissioned vessel, the MY Sarangani, while it was conducting an
archeological survey in Panatag on Saturday.

Gazmin said a Chinese fishing vessel had arrived in the shoal to join two Chinese
maritime surveillance ships, which sailed into the area after the eight Chinese fishing
boats departed at the weekend with their cargo of poached marine life.
The Philippine Coast Guard has a search and rescue vessel in the area, where the
Sarangani and a fishing boat remained.

“Until now, tension remains high at Scarborough Shoal,” Gazmin said.

The Chinese Embassy said that since 1997, the Philippines had never disputed China’s
jurisdiction and development of Huangyan Island, which the DFA said is located 120
nautical miles (220 kilometers) west of Zambales, well within the country’s 200 nautical
mile (370 km) exclusive economic zone.

“On the other hand, the Philippines indicated on a number of occasions that Huangyan
Island was beyond its territory,” the embassy said.

“According to international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the
Sea (Unclos), the Philippines’ claim of jurisdiction and sovereignty rights over Huangyan
Island with the arguments of Exclusive Economic Zone is groundless. Unclos allows
coastal states to claim a 200-nautical mile EEZ, but coastal states have no right to infringe
on the inherent territory and sovereignty of other countries.” it said.

“The Philippines asserts that Huangyan Island is closer to its territory, but in fact
‘geographical proximity’ has long been dismissed by international law and practice as the
principle of the solution of territory ownership,” the embassy said.

Diplomatic solution

However, it said that China was “ready to engage in further discussions with the
Philippine side and try our best to settle the incident properly.” The embassy said that the
fishing boats left on April 13 “to help defuse the situation,” but that the Philippines had not
withdrawn, noting that as of April 12, “there were still boats remaining at that area.”

“In accordance with relevant international conventions and Chinese laws, it is illegal to
conduct salvage activities without the permission of the Chinese government. We urge
the archeological vessel (to) leave the area immediately,” it said.

“Chinese public service vessels are conducting legitimate patrols for law enforcement in
the Huangyan Island area. The incident resulted from the infringement by the Philippine
Navy flagship (BRP) Gregorio del Pilar and Philippine Coast Guard vessels [which] still
remain there.”

“In this context, the Chinese public service vessels have to stay there to watch the
situation,” the embassy said. It urged “the Philippine side to withdraw all of their vessels
from [the] Huangyan Island area and restore peace and stability there.”

The Coast Guard search and rescue vessel, BRP Edsa, on April 16 replaced the BRP
Pampanga, which took over from  Gregorio del Pilar last April 12.

After Gregorio del Pilar left, the eight Chinese fishing vessels fled with their illegal catch of
endangered marine resources like giant clams, live sharks and corals, Gazmin said.
“Actually we did not let them go. They got away in the darkness and because of the
inability of our forces to monitor them. They were able to get past our guards,” he said. “I
guess that was an action to ease the tension somehow, when they were able to leave.”

No US aid sought

Gazmin said negotiations and the filing of a diplomatic protest were the only way to
resolve the territorial conflict peacefully.

“That is the most peaceful means so we can resolve the problem. Any action other than
that will not be peaceful, and we do not want to go into that,” the retired Army
commanding general said.

He said through a diplomatic protest, “(we) let the whole world know that even if we are
(a) small nation, we are fighting for our right.”

Gazmin denied  that the Philippines had sought assistance from the United States. “We
should not be relying on anyone. We should stand on our own and right now we are on
the process of trying to diplomatically settle the issue,” he said.

“If they will help, they should do so voluntarily. We do not need to ask for help from them
because this area is ours. It is very, very clear that this is ours. And in any law, we will
prevail,” Gazmin said.

Repeating the DFA line, Gazmin said the resolution lies in bringing the issue before an
international tribunal “but they (China) do not want to do that.”

“I am very optimistic that we will reach a peaceful conclusion. I’m sure China will not go to
war because of this. We cannot afford a war at this time,” Gazmin added.

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