By Roy Mabasa
China has rebuffed statements earlier made by some Philippine officials regarding the situation in Spratly Islands (known as Nansha in Chinese), saying that the area is “within China’s territory” and the rights of its fishermen “should not be challenged.”
“We have taken note of those remarks made by the Philippine officials. The Nansha Islands are within China’s territory, for which we have sufficient historical and legal basis. For thousands of years, Chinese fishermen have been fishing in these waters in the South China Sea. Their rights should not be challenged,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said during a press conference in Beijing on Thursday.
The Chinese foreign ministry official was apparently referring to statements made by Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo telling Chinese fishermen swarming around Pag-asa Island they have no business being there and “should go away.”
Even Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr., who used to lavishly praise China, said he has fired off a “salvo of diplomatic notes” against China. However, the country’s top diplomat refused to divulge in public the content of the protest.
Responding to the same issue, Lu Kang said China was committed to upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea through negotiations with other concerned countries. The Philippines, together with Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, and China, are claimants to the disputed waters.
He argued that the situation in the South China Sea was generally peaceful, saying that steady progress has been made in the consultations on the Code of Conduct (COC).
“Thanks to the personal efforts of the two leaders, China and the Philippines have returned to the right track of properly handling and resolving the relevant disputes through negotiation and consultation. The situation in the South China Sea is generally stable, and steady progress has been made in the consultations on the COC,” he said.
The Chinese official further said that the relationship between Manila and Beijing has experienced a “turnaround, been consolidated and elevated to a comprehensive, strategic, cooperative one.”