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Saturday, April 13, 2024

After water cannon attacks, Beijing now seeks calm

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China Coast Guard should ‘behave’ in WPS, AFP warns

China is now preaching calm and urging the Philippines to engage it in new discussions over issues in the West Philippine Sea after tensions were inflamed following a new water-cannon attack of its coast guard against local ships on a resupply mission to a PH military outpost at Ayungin Shoal.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is currently touring Singapore and Malaysia, on Saturday said Manila should work with Beijing “to seek an effective way to defuse tensions in the South China Sea,” the official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

In another report, diplomatic sources told CNN Philippines that China “has taken note of the strong statements of Philippine officials” after the water cannon incident near Ayungin Shoal last Aug. 5.

Chinese officials also submitted a “concept paper” that indicates the “internal understanding” of the two countries in handling the WPS issue, the CNN report added.

But the Armed Forces of the Philippines warned the China Coast Guard operating in the West Philippine Sea to “behave” and that Beijing would be blamed for “all the consequences that would arise” from hostile acts in the area.

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The Philippines is ready to defend its position should China resort to forcefully removing the BRP Sierra Madre moored at Ayungin Shoal, AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said.

He clarified that while such a scenario is purely “speculative,” the Philippine military “of course, we will resist.”

Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela also said at the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City that if the AFP request them “to provide escort, we will deploy vessels that will support the supply mission.”

Tarriela said PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu “is willing to deploy additional vessels to support the resupply mission, and if it need be to deploy a 97-meter vessel that would also be an option.”

China has repeatedly expressed its willingness to resolve differences with the Philippines through bilateral dialogue, hoping that Manila would abide by a consensus reached in the past, Xinhua reported Wang as saying.

China said its position on Ayungin Shoal, or Second Thomas Shoal, remains clear and consistent. “We urge the Philippines to stop unilateral actions pending any agreement,” the CNN source added.

Prof. Renato de Castro, a political analyst from De La Salle University, said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has raised the country’s preparations for the ongoing tensions in the WPS.

Castro hailed the President’s whole-of-nation approach in dealing with external threats, but to develop a stronger maritime capability, the administration should build up the AFP and PCG, and encourage more local shipbuilding.

In the same forum in QC, another political analyst said the Philippines should pursue a peaceful way to resolve its territorial dispute with China.

Dr. Froilan Calilung, University of Santo Tomas political science professor, said that with the current situation in the WPS, an actual shooting war might be imminent.

The US, Canada, Japan, and Australia—all treaty allies of the Philippines—and the European Union have decried the event, restating their support for the 2016 arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines.

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