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Manila's name game

Publication Date : 08-05-2012


It seems Manila is once again trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

Instead of pouring oil to calm troubled waters it has raised the temperature in the South China Sea to an even higher degree by declaring that "Panatag Shoal" will now be its official name for China's Huangyan Island, which was known by several names in the Philippines.

Edwin Lacierda, the presidential spokesman, said that the name had been chosen "for brevity" in a news conference.

However, by announcing the island has this name, Manila's real intention is to try and wrangle its self-proclaimed sovereignty over Huangyan Island, which has been part of China since ancient times.

In fact, this is not the first time Manila has tried to shore up its ill-grounded territorial claims with a change of name. Last year, it tried to call the South China Sea the "West Philippine Sea", a move doomed to failure.

But its delight in playing the name game reflects the capricious and opportunist nature of the current Manila administration. In the past, the country has clearly stated that Huangyan Island in the South China Sea is not part of its territory, now it is trying to swallow its words and illegally claim the island.

The Philippines has said it will take the issue to international arbitration, but this is cloud-cuckoo land as there are no international laws or norms that will back its claims to the territories of another country.

Manila is only getting itself a bad name by playing these games.

Its behaviour is simply tarnishing its image and eroding its credibility, as the principles of international relations require respect for other countries' sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The ongoing rift over the Huangyan Island, which was triggered by a Philippine warship harassing Chinese fishermen fishing in Chinese waters, is evolving into a major diplomatic storm affecting ties between Manila and Beijing.

So far, Beijing has exercised the utmost restraint and is pursuing diplomatic and peaceful means to defuse the tension.

Manila has said that it too will de-escalate the situation, but instead of matching words with deeds, it has resorted to one reckless move after another.


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