2012-06-02 (China Military News cited from The Philippine Star and by Jaime Laude) — A day after the Philippines and China came into an agreement to exercise restraint in addressing the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough) dispute, a Chinese newspaper criticized Manila for its supposed illegal and continued occupation of eight islands and islets belonging to China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In its opinion page, China Daily, the mouthpiece of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), also described the month-long standoff at Panatag Shoal (Huangyan Island) as a ploy by the Philippine government to trick China into recognizing its occupation of the islands and islets including Panatag.
Apart from Panatag Shoal, the Philippines is also laying territorial claim over several islets, shoals, reefs and sandbars in the Spratlys group of islands being claimed in whole by China as part its territorial domain. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are also among the claimant countries.
All but Brunei have forward troops deployed in the region.
“Such efforts, of course, have failed,” declared China Daily opinion page writers and researchers in political studies at Guangdong Ocean University, Gong Jianhua and Zhou Jianyuan.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie, in a Phnom Penh meeting the other day, have agreed to exercise restraint in issuing damaging statements as well as conducting provocative actions so as not to complicate the prevailing situation in Panatag Shoal.
At the sidelines of the 6th ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting in Cambodia, both defense chiefs also agreed to keep the line of communications open, which Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said has been active even before the Panatag impasse.
“Of course we don’t want to see this (Panatag standoff) go the other way other than have its peaceful resolution,” Galvez said yesterday.
As of last Thursday, China has deployed seven vessels aside from the eight fishing vessels in Panatag, as against two Philippine civilian vessels that have been in the area on a rotation basis since the standoff started last April 10 when two Chinese vessels prevented the Navy’s flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar from arresting Chinese fishermen who were caught illegally harvesting corals and giant clams inside the lagoon of the shoal.
“Some countries may try to make use of the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue to once again sensationalize the territorial disputes in the South China Sea between and some of its Southeast Asian neighbors,” China Daily said, in reference to yesterday’s annual security forum organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore.