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Manila accuses China in sea spat
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 04 - 03 - 2011

MANILA: The Philippine military Thursday accused the Chinese navy of entering Manila's waters in the South China Sea and ordering an oil exploration vessel to leave.
The Philippine military deployed two warplanes near the disputed South China Sea region after a local ship searching for oil complained it was harassed by two Chinese patrol boats, officials said Thursday. A Filipino military aircraft was scrambled to the area off the Reed Bank, west of the Philippine island of Palawan to investigate the alleged incident Wednesday, and the Chinese vessels left, Major-General Juancho Sabban said.
The area in question is a disputed part of the South China Sea, where there are multiple competing claims of sovereignty. “The Chinese patrol boats approached the explorers, who were well within our territory, and ordered them to stop and leave the area because it's supposedly Chinese territory,” Sabban told reporters. “We knew it was well within our territory, so we sent a plane there to verify these reports, but the Chinese patrol boats left, presumably after their crews saw our reaction. It is our territory, so they have no right to tell anybody to get out of there.”
The Reed Bank lies between the Philippines' offshore Malampaya gas field and the disputed Spratly archipelago, a South China Sea chain claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The claimants have been involved in several similar incidents in the past. Three years earlier China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes the Philippines and three other Spratly claimants, signed a pact to resolve territorial disputes in the area peacefully. Sabban said the oil survey vessel was hired from a private firm that he did not name.
Beijing reacted with fury last year when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional security forum in Vietnam that the peaceful resolution of disputes over the Spratly and Paracel island groups was in the American national interest. Beijing said Washington was interfering in an Asian regional issue. The United States worries the disputes could hurt access to one of the world's busiest commercial sea lanes.

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