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Philippines checks report of 'harassment' near China-controlled reef

21 April 2017

He believes this case provoked China's building of artificial islands in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

In an interview with reporters, General Eduardo Ano said the armed forces had received sketchy reports of a group of Filipinos being driven away from Union Bank in the Spratlys, near Gaven Reef, on which China has built an island.

"Whether (President Rodrigo Duterte) will be the one to initiate discussions remains to be seen", he said.

The COC is expected to lay down legally binding rules and guidelines on avoiding conflicts arising from rival claims by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan over all or parts of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion (S$7 trillion) worth of trade passes through each year.

Also on Thursday, former Philippine President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took the previous administration of Benigno S.C. Aquino to task for its provocation of the maritime dispute on his watch.

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"And we are beefing up our security elements", said the Philippine Ambassador to the United States Marciano Paynor, who is overseeing this year's Asean meetings.

"So in effect, while we are fighting in the Hague, maybe we were winning in the Hague, but China. made it to a point that while we were winning in the Hague, China is winning in the waters of South China Sea", he added.

Mendoza said the filing of a case before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal by the Aquino administration "provoked" China to build island-factories in the disputed territory.

He, however, said, "What is catching the attention, not only of the countries bordering the South China Sea, is practically the continuing tension in the South China Sea".

"To me, up to now it (Manila's maritime protest) is a source of enquiry on why we filed the arbitral claim".

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"Our strategic direction is to emphasize our economic relations [with China] and transcend matters and issues between us", Arroyo said. "Before, I don't remember China having such claims as nine-dash line", said the lawyer, a former justice minister and solicitor general during the Marcos administration.

They said that they remain concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas.

Mendoza also credited the Arroyo administration for the enactment of Republic Act 9522 which defines the baselines of the Philippine archipelago - a law upheld by the Supreme Court. Chinese in the past have fired water cannon at vessels of other countries in the area.

Mendoza recalled that while China did not protest the Philippines' baselines law, it opposed the inclusion of Kalayaan and Scarborough Shoal, a fact affirmed by Arroyo.

Both Mendoza and Arroyo maintained that her administration's Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking with China and Vietnam showed cooperation between China and the Philippines was possible.

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On Wednesday, April 19, Bolivar confirmed that Acting Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and his ASEAN counterparts will meet with Tillerson in Washington next month.