Philippines calls on Beijing to stop 39harassment39

Philippines calls on Beijing to stop 'harassment'

The Philippines is calling on China to stop “harassment”, Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo told AFP on Monday, assuring he was committed to a peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea.

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Mr Manalo was speaking on the sidelines of the 50th summit of relations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia following a series of incidents between Manila and Beijing in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

The Philippine minister defended his government's policy of publicizing Chinese maneuvers in these disputed waters, such as the recent passage of warships near Scarborough Atoll.

“It's just a matter of informing people about what is happening,” the minister told AFP.

“If you stopped harassing us and perhaps took other actions, there would be no information to report,” the Philippine diplomacy chief added.

“We will never cede a square inch of our territory and maritime jurisdiction,” added Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, speaking on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Melbourne later on Monday evening.

“Provocative actions”

Manila and Beijing have a long history of maritime disputes in the South China Sea, through which billions of dollars worth of goods move each year.

Beijing claims almost all of its maritime space, including waters and islands off the coasts of several neighboring countries, and has ignored a 2016 ruling by an international court that rejected the claim without legal basis.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim several reefs and islands in this sea, some of which may contain rich oil deposits.

A spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry, Mao Ning, responded to Manalo's comments on Monday, saying: “China's position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear.”

“The root of the recent maritime problems is that the Philippines has frequently carried out provocative actions in the South China Sea that violate our rights,” she said.

Manila has tried to rally other countries, particularly in the region, to its cause, with mixed results.

“The Philippines is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes through diplomatic or peaceful means,” Manalo said, while stressing that “this will not be done to the detriment of our national interests.”

“We are reaching out to partners in countries that share our ideas and face similar issues and concerns,” he added.

The Philippine diplomacy chief also raised questions about the future of relations with the country's top security partner, the United States, where outgoing President Joe Biden is expected to face Republican Donald Trump in November elections.

Washington formally committed itself through a treaty to defend Manila in the event of a military conflict.

“The United States is an important ally, a treaty ally of the Philippines. “It is therefore obvious that any difference or change in American policy … would most likely have an impact on Manila,” Manalo said.