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Good manners, right conduct

“Without an internationally recognized basis, China said what it does near Ayungin Shoal is justified and lawful.

The Chinese propaganda mill has descended to absurdity in rationalizing an indefensible incursion into the Philippines’ maritime zone, a claim that it supports through discredited historical bases.

One of its mouthpieces claimed that the United States is instigating a proxy conflict in the West Philippine Sea, or WPS, with the Philippines as its pawn.

China has ignored the vital 2016 award of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that defined the rights of nations in the disputed region and, more importantly, invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim covering practically the entire South China Sea.

The Philippines, which filed the arbitration case, is merely following provisions of the ruling based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, to which China and the Philippines are signatories.

“Contrary to its claim of safeguarding the ‘rules-based order’ in the Asia-Pacific, the US is the biggest threat to the region’s peace and stability. It is looking to exploit proxies in the region for its troublemaking and, unfortunately, the Philippines has obliged,” the China megaphone bellowed.

Seething with arrogance, it stressed that instead of “appreciating Beijing’s forbearance toward the old ship it intentionally grounded on China’s Ren’ai Reef in 1999, in a move designed to make it a fait accompli that the reef belongs to the Philippines, Manila seems to have mistaken it for weakness and taken the initiative to play the role of agent provocateur that Washington has assigned to it.”

An array of ships has been parked side-by-side at the Julian Felipe Reef, which ships pass on the way to the Ayungin Shoal, where the BRP Sierra Madre had been beached.

China warned through its sounding board that “while it has exercised full restraint in response to the latest irresponsible and provocative moves of the United States and the Philippines, the People’s Liberation Army remains alert and will act resolutely to safeguard national sovereignty and security.”

The resolute action it cited likely included the deployment of 130 Chinese militia boats as a blockade after some Filipino groups indicated plans to organize a massive convoy of ships to sail toward the contested Ayungin Shoal.

Without an internationally recognized basis, China said what it does near Ayungin Shoal is justified and lawful.

It then referred to the militia vessels as fishing boats, which it indicated have the privilege of “operating or sheltering from wind in the area, and the Philippines is in no position to make irresponsible remarks.”

There was no recognizable shelter or natural threat when the array of militia ships was discovered. A prominent feature of the boats is that they are apparently equipped with solar panels to support their long-term deployment.

China then tossed the blame for the tense situation to the US, which it claimed was “deliberately stirring up trouble in the waters with its boorish behavior and its attempt to embolden the Philippines in its dispute with China over the reef.”

China must remember that throughout the six-year term of President Rodrigo Duterte, the path of friendly engagement through dialogue was the policy. Still, it failed to establish a permanent arrangement in the disputed maritime region.

There were intermittent periods when Filipino fishermen could access their traditional fishing grounds, but only on China’s terms.

Beijing decides when and how Filipinos can attend to their livelihood in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone — a zone that was delineated in the PCA ruling.

China has been insisting on a bilateral dialogue as the only recourse to negotiate the territorial conflict, but it has indicated that it will not give up its patently illegal claim.

As for joint patrols in the WPS, the US and the Philippines have a genuinely historic military alliance that provides for naval exercises following the expulsion of US forces from the country.

China should consider other options to solve the conflict, such as submitting to a forum where the rules are not what it dictates and should be followed by the party it is negotiating with.

It should, for instance, remove all obstacles for the Code of Conduct to become a reality.

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Credit belongs to: tribune.net.ph

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