Philippines Ignored China’s Proposals on South China Sea Dispute

This handout photo taken and released on December 10, 2023 by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) shows a China Coast Guard vessel (R) using water cannon against the M/L Kalayaan chartered supply boat (C) during a mission to deliver provisions at Second Thomas Shoal in disputed waters of the South China Sea. A Philippine boat was 'rammed' by a Chinese coast guard ship during a resupply mission on December 10, the Philippine coast guard said, in the latest such confrontation in the disputed South China Sea. The Philippine Coast Guard also said a Chinese ship 'water cannoned' three Philippine vessels involved in the resupply mission, causing 'serious engine damage' to one of the boats. Handout / Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP
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The Philippine government has been criticized for its lack of action on concept papers submitted by China almost a year ago. These papers proposed ways to normalize the situation in disputed areas of the South China Sea. According to a ranking Chinese official who spoke to The Manila Times on condition of anonymity, the papers were presented in April 2023, but the Marcos administration failed to act upon them.

The Chinese official revealed that they presented 11 concept papers, each addressing different aspects of the situation. One paper focused on how to manage Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal, another on how to manage the fishing issue in Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc), and another on ecological protection. The Chinese government hoped to discuss the contents of these papers with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in order to establish guidelines.

However, the Chinese official expressed disappointment, stating that their initiatives were met with inaction. Despite attempts by the Chinese government to engage in discussions, including sending Vice Foreign Minister Sun Wedong in May 2023, there has been no response or feedback from the Philippines. The proposal was also raised during the 8th Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea in Shanghai on January 17.

The Chinese official emphasized that they have been waiting for almost a year for a response and expressed their frustration with the lack of progress. They mentioned that they were willing to reach an agreement or at least have some understanding with the Philippines, but the inaction from the Philippine side has left them questioning the seriousness of the Philippines in normalizing the situation in the South China Sea.

One of the concept papers mentioned that China would agree to the Philippines sending one vessel to Ayungin Shoal for rotation and resupply (RoRe) missions to Filipino troops stationed on board BRP Sierra Madre. However, the Philippines would have to commit not to transport large-scale building materials to reinforce the Sierra Madre.

The Chinese official highlighted that there was already an understanding with the previous Duterte administration regarding the transportation of building materials to Ayungin Shoal. However, things changed when President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s government took over. Despite the change in government, the Chinese official emphasized the need for dialogue to discuss any disagreements or changes in policies.

The Philippine government’s refusal to acknowledge and implement the existing agreement led to a series of unilateral actions, according to the Chinese official. China had to lodge representations in Beijing and Manila, urging the Philippines to honor the existing consensus and refrain from taking unilateral actions until a new understanding is reached.

The Chinese official expressed regret over the deterioration of relations and emphasized the need for tensions to subside before resuming dialogue with the Philippines. They emphasized that neither side would gain anything from the current situation, but would only incur the cost of further deteriorating relations.

In conclusion, the lack of action by the Philippine government on the concept papers proposed by China has strained relations between the two countries. The Chinese government has expressed its disappointment and frustration with the inaction, emphasizing the need for dialogue and understanding to normalize the situation in the South China Sea. It remains to be seen how the Philippines will respond and whether both countries can find a way to address the complex issues surrounding the disputed areas.

Source: The Manila Times

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