Press Release
March 8, 2011


Last week, the Philippine Coast Guard reported that a Chinese vessel harassed a Philippine vessel conducting seismic surveys along the Reed Bank.

In naval parlance, "harassment" includes trailing, approaching or blocking of a ship by another vessel.

The Reed bank is about 80 nautical miles from mainland Palawan and within our 200 nautical miles economic zone. It is part of our continental shelf and physical territory, in accordance with the law of the sea.

In fact, as early as the 1970s, the Philippines had performed exploration work on the bank. Several gas and oil companies including a consortium composed of the Yuchengco group of companies and a Swedish mining company, had done explorations there. No protest or interference by any country in the region, much less the Chinese, were heard.

Even assuming that the Reed Bank is part of the Spratlys - which it is not -- there is no reason or justification for harassing the said Philippine vessel.

The 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea urges countries to resolve all sovereignty and jurisdictional issues by peaceful means. It called on all parties to exercise restraint, and explore the possibility of cooperation in maritime navigation, communication and operations. It was signed on July 22, 1992 by the foreign ministers of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Moreover, in 2002, China and the ASEAN signed an accord for the peaceful resolution of competing territorial claims and to freeze any steps that could spark fighting. Despite this, China has built military facilities on the islands, prompting protests from other ASEAN countries.

The Reed Bank incident last week is a clear encroachment of the rights of a friendly state by a supposedly friendly neighbor. It is a violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty.

We have no reason to quarrel with China, nor does China have a reason to infringe on our rights. But China's display of power - one that shows a big country strong-arming a poor country - should not be allowed to pass without strong complaint and vigorous protest.

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