China denies PNoy's harassment claim

Posted at 01/30/13 1:28 PM

MANILA, Philippines - China denied claims by President Aquino that it harassed Philippine boats in Scarborough Shoal, saying it was the other way around.

Based on transcripts made available in the Chinese embassy website, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said: “Last year's Huangyan Island incident was caused by Philippine warships' harassment of Chinese fishermen and fishing boats.”

The Philippines calls Scarborough Shoal the "Bajo de Masinloc" and China calls it the "Huangyan island".

Hong was asked to comment on President Benigno Aquino III’s accusation that China harassed two fishing boats on separate incidents and even drove out one that sought shelter from the rough seas.

Aquino did not say when the incidents happened.

Hong said Scarborough Shoal is “indisputable Chinese territory.” He said the situation there now is “mainly stable. The Chinese side does not want to see a setback.”

Aquino said he cannot allow China to claim "effective control over Bajo de Masinloc by ordering our vessels out.” He said this would allow China to move into the Philippines’ Reed Bank.

Hong insisted, however, the “Liyue Bank (Reed Bank) issue is clear. The Liyue Bank is part of Nansha Islands (Spratlys), and China has indisputable sovereignty over Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters. The Chinese government always maintains that the Nansha dispute should be resolved through bilateral negotiation and consultation, which is also the consensus of relevant parties.”

Saying a solution to the maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea remains elusive, the Philippines said last week it was bringing the dispute to an arbitral tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).