This file photo taken on April 21, 2017, shows an aerial image, from a Philippine airforce plane, of Subi Reef in the South China Sea and claimed by China.
AFP/Ted Aljibe, File
China flaunts muscle to show coronavirus left might intact — analyst
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - May 15, 2020 - 4:14pm

MANILA, Philippines — China's recent establishment of new facilities in the South China Sea might be Beijing's way to show the rest of the world that its might was not crippled by the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, an analyst has said.

“What we can say for certain is that China clearly wants to demonstrate that it is unimpeded by the pandemic,” said Nguyen Hung Son, director-general of the Institute for the South China Sea under the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.

If any, what Beijing did not plan was to announce the new establishments this early, but was forced to do so to salvage its tarnished global image caused by the alleged concealment and rapid spread of COVID-19 from Wuhan province.

“Although the pandemic might have pushed them to announce it earlier and the anchoring of the search and rescue vessels in the Fiery Cross (Reef) is also probably recurring Chinese activities. And they planned to do that,” Nguyen said.

Just last month, China announced the establishment of the districts of Nansha (Spratly Islands) and Xisha (Paracel Islands), which would fall under the jurisdiction of its self-declared Sansha City. The Philippines protested the move.

A month before that, state-funded Chinese Academy of Sciences launched research stations on Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) and Subi Reefs in the Spratlys, which are also being claimed by the Philippines.

On top of trying to rebuild its damaged reputation from COVID-19, Nguyen further noted Beijing is speeding up building activities in contested waters as a show of force ahead of the 100th founding anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party next year.

ASEAN stand

China has butted heads with smaller countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, over its all-encompassing claims in South China Sea, which many observers see as a violation of international law.

In July 2016, the Philippines secured a historic victory on this front when the country won a ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration that gave the country jurisdiction over some islands in the West Philippine Sea, an area in the South China Sea that falls within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

But the international ruling was not recognized by China which persisted to construct new facilities in the area. Nguyen reiterated that as one body, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) need to counter China by fostering a more “rules-based” approach in navigation. 

“ASEAN needs to encourage and promote the trend relying more on the law of the sea to set and maintain the rules-based order on the South China Sea,” Nguyen said.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 3, 2020 - 7:28am

The United States Navy's Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis continues underway in the South China Sea.

The US Pacific Command just reported that it has received "cargo" from support ship USNS Rainier in the disputed waters.

July 3, 2020 - 7:28am

The Pentagon says it is "concerned" about Chinese military exercises around a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea, noting the maneuvers will "further destabilize" the region.

"The Department of Defense is concerned about the People's Republic of China (PRC) decision to conduct military exercises around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on July 1-5," the Pentagon says in a statement.

The activities "further destabilize the situation" in the area claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, it says. — AFP

April 30, 2020 - 4:15pm

The Philippines says it strongly protests "the establishment of the so-called districts of 'Nansha' and 'Xisha' under the supposed administrative jurisdiction of its self-declared 'Sansha City'" which would cover parts of the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs says it has protested since 2012 the "unlawful establishment of Sansha City" that includes Philippine territory and maritime zones in the WPS, including the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc.

The Philippines also protests the dseignation of Kagitingan Reef in the Kalayaan Island Group "as adinistrative center for the so-called 'Nansha district'," saying the reef is part of the KIG and an integral part of Philippine territory.

April 27, 2020 - 1:41pm

Sen. Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution to urge the executive branch to "exert legal and diplomatic pressure" on China over its activities in the West Philippine and to have the regional giant pay for enviromental damage in the area.

"China's sense of entitlement to our seas has caused severe and irreparable harm to our ecosystems," Hontiveros says in a statement on the filing of Philippine Senate Resolution No. 369.

Even if the Senate, the majority of which supports the Duterte administration and its foreign policy with China, adopts the resolution, it is non-binding on the executive branch.

"Hindi tayo kolonya, kaya panahon nang singilin ng gobyerno ang Tsina (We are not a colony so it's about time that we have China pay)," she also says.

In her resolution, Hontiveros says "unlawful Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea are estimated to have caused at last P33 billion in damage annually to marine ecosystems within the Philippines' continental shelf and exclusive economic zone" since 2013, the year that the Philippines filed its arbitration case.

April 22, 2020 - 7:59pm

The Philippines has sent the Chinese Embassy two diplomatic protests, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. says on his Twitter account.

He says the protests are on "1. on the pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in Philippines waters and 2. [on] declaring parts of Philippine territory as part of Hainan province—both violations of international law and Philippine sovereignty."

September 15, 2019 - 4:22pm

Vice President Leni Robredo chides presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, telling him that he should be better informed of what exactly President Duterte has stated before presenting his own "interpretation," so they can stop contradicting each other in public.

Her statement comes after Panelo called her out for "misplaced and flamboyant remarks" in response to the president's remark about ignoring the arbitral ruling for a joint oil and gas exploration deal with China.

"Litong lito talaga ako, kasi ang sinasabi ni pangulo, iba sa sinasabi niya. Nagsabi si pangulo na i-set aside iyong arbitral ruling; ang sabi niya, hindi iyon iyong gustong sabihin," Robredo says on her weekly radio show, BISErbisyong LENI on RMN-DZXL 558.

Robredo says the administration should put a stop to this "practice" as contradictions between the president's statements and Panelo's "clarifications" only make things even more confusing for the people. 

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