MANILA, JULY 6, 2012 (ABS-CBN) President Benigno Aquino on Thursday denied reports he had asked the United States for spy planes to monitor a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.

Aquino told reporters that his country had its own ships and aircraft to keep an eye on the disputed Scarborough Shoal and that he had merely mentioned in an interview that US aircraft could be called upon for help if needed.

"If you will go through the transcript of the interview, I said 'We might' (ask for US help)," he said.

"That is where (the interviewers) suddenly introduced the supposed request for overflights, which wasn't what I stated."

Aides said Aquino had made the remarks during an interview with a foreign news agency on Monday.

Subsequent reports of the president's alleged requests for US spy planes raised concerns within China, with the country warning the Philippines against provocation over the three-month stand-off between the two countries.

"Let us correct that. America is a treaty ally. Where we are lacking in capacity, I think we can go to them and ask that they increase (our) situational awareness," Aquino said Thursday.

The shoal stand-off began in April when Chinese vessels prevented the Philippine Navy from arresting Chinese fishermen encroaching on what the Filipinos claim is a part of their country's territory.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighbouring countries.

In addition to the whole of the Scarborough Shoal the Philippines also claims parts of the Spratlys archipelago. It says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

Both countries have been pressing their respective claims to the area, with the poorly-equipped Philippines seeking the support of its main defence ally, the United States.

Aquino remarked Thursday that the Philippines had withdrawn its own ships from the shoal almost three weeks ago, but Chinese ships were still in the area.

"If their vessels had also gone home... there would be no more issue. So who is prolonging the issue?" he said.

"There are a lot of things being said by the other side. Maybe they need to balance their statements with the truth," he said.

Meanwhile, the Philippines announced Thursday it had filed a diplomatic protest with China over Beijing's establishment of a new prefecture called "Sansha" to administer disputed territories in the South China Sea.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said Sansha's establishment violated Manila's claim to the Scarborough Shoal and parts of the Spratly islands, as well as other areas within the South China Sea.

He told reporters the ministry was awaiting the Chinese government's response to the protest.


Philippines lodged a protest against China’s establishment of a city called Sansha in South China Sea By MICHAELA DEL CALLAR July 5, 2012 3:18pm

The Philippines on Thursday said it has lodged a protest against China’s establishment of a city called Sansha which covers a vast expanse of the South China Sea and clearly violated the Philippine sovereignty over its territorial waters and continental shelf.

A June 28 note verbale containing Manila’s diplomatic protest was handed personally to Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters in a press briefing Thursday.

“This note verbale protested on the establishment of Sansha City as the extent of the jurisdiction of the city violates Philippine territorial sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc and infringes on Philippine sovereign rights over the waters and continental shelf of the West Philippine Sea,” said Hernandez.

Beijing-based “Global Times” reported on June 25 that the creation of Sansha City was a new step for China to manage South China Seas.

“China's Ministry of Civil Affairs announced last week the establishment of Sansha city, which will administer Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands. The decision is more than just a response to Vietnam's maritime law, approved Thursday,” according to the report.

“China's actions concerning South China Sea disputes have been forced by Vietnam and the Philippines. Their provocations will meet with strong reactions from China, and push China to systematically strengthen related management.

“Technological breakthroughs in offshore drilling platforms and the new success of the Jiaolong submersible have demonstrated China's strength as a maritime power,” it added.

Sansha prefecture

[PHOTO - China sets up Sansha city in South China Sea to manage
the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their surrounding
areas in the South China Sea.]

China claims the South China Sea nearly in its entirety, including areas that overlap with the Philippine territory and the cluster of islands reefs and atolls further south called the Spratlys.

Other claimants are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Except for Brunei, all claimants have stationed military troops in their territories in the vast sea said to be sitting atop huge oil and gas deposits,

The Kalayaan or Freedom in Filipino is a group of Philippine-claimed islands facing the South China Sea. The 37-hectare Pag-asa Island, equipped with an airstrip, commercial communications tower, and power generators, is the largest of these territories.

Sansha has been elevated to prefecture-level that will administer “the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha island groups and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea,” according to Beijing.

The government seat will be stationed on Yongxing Island, which is part of the Xisha Islands, a Ministry of Civil Affairs statement noted.

The council has abolished a county-level administration office for the islands that was previously stationed on Yongxing Island.

China’s Sansha City also covers the disputed Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines, which has been at the center of a weeks-long territorial standoff between Manila and Beijing.

PHL territory, maritime jurisdiction

Both the Kalayaan Islands and Bajo de Masinloc are within the Philippine 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Philippines, China and 162 other nations are signatories to this treaty.

“The declaration of the establishment of Sansha City contradicts the spirit of the conduct of parties in the South China Sea,” Hernandez said, referring to a non-binding code of conduct that calls on all claimants to stop new occupation and to avoid actions that will escalate tensions in the area.

“The Philippines reiterates in that note verbale that the KIG and Bajo de Masinloc and the waters and continental shelf around them form an integral part of the Philippine territory and maritime jurisdiction,” Hernandez said. — VS/ELR, News


China raises administrative status of South China Sea islands 06-21-2012 18:11 BJT Special Report:South China Sea Is An Indisputable Part of China |

BEIJING, June 21 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese government has raised the administrative status of Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands in the South China Sea from county-level to prefectural-level, according to a Thursday statement.

The State Council, or China's cabinet, has approved the establishment of the prefectural-level city of Sansha to administer the three island groups and their surrounding waters, while the government seat will be stationed on Yongxing Island, part of the Xisha Islands, according to a statement from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The council has abolished the county-level Administration Office for Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha Islands, which was also stationed on Yongxing Island, the statement said.

A spokesperson of the Ministry of Civil Affairs said Thursday that the setting up of Sansha city will help to improve China's "administrative management on Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their future development."

"It is also conducive to protecting the oceanic environment of the South China Sea," the spokesperson said.

China first discovered and named the reefs, islets and the surrounding waters of Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands, and has exercised sovereignty control continuously over the area, the spokesperson said.

The People's Republic of China set up the Administration Office for the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha Islands in 1959, according to the spokesperson.


Chinese internet users dare to dream…of touristifying Woody Island (永兴岛, Dao Phu Lam). The news that the island would become the home of a prefecture-level city government was received with some excitement.

[PHOTO - Yongxing Island (also known as Woody Island) is
part of the Xisha Islands.]

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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