Philippine President Benigno Aquino has issued a stern warning over the military reports of the appearance of two Chinese vessels in the Reed Bank. Known in the Philippines as the Recto Bank, the oil-rich area is located in the disputed waters in the South China Sea.
“What are they doing there? What sort of research is being conducted? I hope that their presence will not cause the escalation of tensions between the Philippines and China,” said Aquino in an interview with TV5 which aired on Sunday.
Reed Bank is located 370 km in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. This area is included in the Washington-backed Philippine proposal to freeze all exploration activities which could spark tension in the South China Sea dispute.
“May I remind you that Recto (Reed) Bank is only 144 km from Palawan, which means it is located within out exclusive economic zone,” said Aquino.
To date, China claims over 90 percent of the 3,5 million square kilometre South China Sea, and routinely sends its vessels to map and survey the area.
However, Aquino stopped short of saying the exact times that the Chinese vessels were at Reed Bank – only going as far as saying that it is a ‘seasonal’ action which China routinely engages in throughout the conflict with the Philippines. “There are times where China acts like a foe, and times where China acts like a friend. There are also times where China acts like neither,” he said.
The government of the Philippines have launched a formal protest to China over its’ so-called ‘sovereign patrols’ in the area and accused Beijing of attempting to change the status quo in the South China Sea by constantly interfering in the region.
“We are protesting about these patrols done by Chinese vessels around the Reed Bank,” said a spokesman for the Philippines Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Charles Jose, in a press conference in Manila yesterday.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has previously said that Beijing will never accept any proposal that could damage the currently on-going negotiation process, which in turn could harm the collective interest of China and its’ Southeast Asian neighbours.
However, China is ready to hear the proposals regarding the South China Sea in good faith. “The proposals need to be objective, fair, and constructive, instead of ridden with hidden agendas which may cause future conflicts,” said Yi.
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