China opposes 5 Philippine solons’ trip to Kalayaan | Inquirer News

China opposes 5 Philippine solons’ trip to Kalayaan

/ 02:40 AM July 20, 2011

China on Tuesday protested a planned trip by five Filipino lawmakers to a Philippine-occupied island in the disputed Spratlys chain in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), saying it would do nothing but undermine regional stability and “sabotage” bilateral ties.

Chinese Embassy spokesperson Ethan Sun said Beijing would relay its “great concern” to Manila over the plan by five congressmen led by Rep. Walden Bello to fly today (Wednesday) to what the Philippines calls Pag-asa Island, which has been occupied by Filipino troops and a small civilian community.

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Pag-asa lies about 480 kilometers west of Palawan.

Bello on Monday said that the one-day trip, which his Akbayan party-list group called a “sovereignty mission,” was aimed at peacefully asserting the Philippines’ claim to Pag-asa and surrounding territory.

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He said the trip was not a military operation and should not raise concern among rival countries.

“There is no reason for the Chinese embassy to worry. They seem to be overreacting to a very small, peaceful mission,” Bello said. “We have every right as Filipino citizens to visit Philippine territory.”

But in a statement, Sun said the trip went against the spirit of a 2002 nonbinding accord between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which called on claimants to settle their disputes peacefully and avoid hostile acts to prevent conflicts.

The trip comes amid increased tensions in the island chain, which is wholly or partially claimed by China and the Philippines as well as Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

The Spratlys are believed to sit on vast mineral resources and all claimants, except Brunei, have troops posted on some of the islands.

The Philippines and Vietnam have accused China in recent months of taking increasingly aggressive actions to stake their claims, including opening fire on Filipino fishermen. Reports from AP and AFP

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TAGS: Chinese Embassy spokesperson Ethan Sun, Pag-asa Island, Rep. Walden Bello, South China sea, Sovereignty mission, Spratlys, West Philippine Sea
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