China will not back down on Spratlys: expert

Posted at 06/11/11 9:42 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines should not expect China to back down on the ongoing territorial dispute between the 2 countries over the Spratly islands, an expert said on Saturday.

Chito Sto. Romana worked for 2 decades as ABC News bureau chief in China.

He said Beijing sees the South China Sea as its lake, with the Spratly islands as part of its territory.

He believes that China will not negotiate over what it sees as its sovereign right over the area.

Professor Ed Dagdag of the University of the Philippines' Asian Center is also worried.

He expressed concern that that if war does erupt over the contested islands, the United States  will not be on the side of the Philippines.

He said Washington may still be upset with the Philippines' rejection of the bases treaty extension in 1991.

This, despite the Mutual Defense Treaty between the 2 countries that requires Washington to help Manila if it gets attacked by another country.

Filipino activists, meanwhile, said the United States should stay out of the territorial dispute.

"Nakakatakot ito na baka samantalahin ang dispute at kumabig ng tropang military doon, palalawagin ang VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement). Lalong magiging kumplikado ang isyu," Bayan Muna secretary-general Renato Reyes said.

Chinese Ambassador Liu Jianchao, on the other hand, also believes that Washington should not get involved in the issue.

"So the United States is not a party to the dispute. I understand its concern, which is not really necessary, after all, because these maritime waters has always been safe, and peaceful and free," he said.

Malacañang has stressed that the dispute should be resoved peacefully.

Washington, for its part, is calling for restraint among all claimants of the Spratlys. - Reports from Abner Mercado and Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News; ANC