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Beijing, Manila can find amicable solution to island dispute: envoy

Publication Date : 21-05-2012

 

As Manila softened its attitude over the Huangyan Island incident while displaying gamesmanship under the table, analysts called for a more substantial demonstration of goodwill from the Southeast Asian nation.

According to China Review, Noel Servigon, Philippine consul general in Hong Kong, expressed optimism that war would not break out in the South China Sea, saying that Beijing and Manila could settle the dispute in an amicable way.

Considering there is no ambassador in Beijing, and Servigon is a senior Philippine diplomat in China, his remarks could be seen as the prominent voice of Manila, said Ren Yuanzhe, a researcher at China Foreign Affairs University.

It could be seen as another way to express Manila's softened attitude, Ren said, mentioning that Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario have recently voiced similar opinions on different occasions, after heightened tensions caused tremendous losses for the Philippine tourism industry and fruit exports.

"Of course, China has suffered a loss, too, but it is totally sustainable. China has enough time and energy to push and see more substantial actions from Manila," Ren added.

The Philippines might take up the issue while it hosts three days of meetings of senior officials from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United States, which began on Sunday.

However, Del Rosario said the dialogue "is a regular meeting aimed at enhancing the relations of both sides and charting the course of ASEAN-US partnership", the Philippine Daily Inquirer, based in Manila, reported.

Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin revealed on Friday that Manila would obtain 10 new patrol ships from Japan, saying it would increase Philippine maritime security forces. But the Japanese embassy in Manila said on the same day that the Japanese government had not made a formal decision.

"This is not a good sign and will certainly cast a shadow over the issue, so there is still a long way to go before a final solution is found," Ren said.

Media reported that Aquino had named veteran banker Cesar Zalamea and Philippine-Chinese business leader Domingo Lee as "special envoys" to China. Servigon said it was a positive step toward resolving the dispute on the South China Sea.

Del Rosario said on Wednesday that he hoped a breakthrough would soon end the dispute so the two countries could resume normal relations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei later called for clear and consistent diplomatic solutions from the Philippines to the current situation.

Tensions in the South China Sea escalated on April 10 when a Philippine warship harassed 12 Chinese fishing vessels that had sailed near the island to seek shelter from inclement weather.

A two-and-a-half-month fishing ban began at noon on Wednesday in most parts of the South China Sea as part of ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the area's marine resources. The fishing ban also applies to foreign ships.

This fishing ban could be seen as a goodwill gesture from Beijing, and "kick the ball back" to its southeastern neighbour, said Yang Danzhi, an Asian studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, adding that China maintains the right of sovereignty over the island by sending the fishery patrol ships.

"Now the incident has entered a key period to seek a peaceful solution, and Manila should proceed from its national interests and adopt considerate actions," he said.

The Philippine Basketball Association has invited Yao Ming, the Chinese basketball star, and his Shanghai Sharks to visit the Philippines and play friendly matches, hoping to ease the current tensions.

But Zhang Mingji, a spokesman for Team Yao, said they were still considering the invitation.

Expressing "concern", Russian Federation Ambassador to Manila Nikolay Kudashev told the Manila Bulletin over the weekend that the Russian Federation declared it is against any meddling by nations other than the claimant countries in the South China Sea dispute.

"This is our official position," Kudashev said.

He said Russia is "mindful" of the fact that, like the United States, it is not a party to the dispute between China and the Philippines.

"Otherwise it will sound like we are interfering in the internal affairs (of the claimant countries)," he said.

This is the first time that a Russian government official has spoken directly about the ongoing standoff in the South China Sea.

 

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