Duterte refuses to stop South China Sea patrols



  • The Philippine defense secretary said on Thursday that it is highly unlikely his country will allow the US military to use it for patrols in the disputed South China Sea.
  • Philippine will not withdraw navy and coast guard boats patrolling the disputed South China Sea, insisting that the country’s sovereignty over the waters is not negotiable.
Philippines' Duterte Refuses To Stop South China Sea Patrols - Eminetra  Australia

Reluctant to confront China

  •  Tensions over the sea, which China claims almost entirely, have spiked as China refuses to pull out vessels from the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone and Manila steps up maritime patrols.
  •  The philippine president is under growing domestic pressure to take a harder line, but has been reluctant to confront China over the issue as he fosters closer ties with the economic giant.
  •  While the Philippines is indebted to its “good friend” China for many things, including free COVID-19 vaccines, his country’s claims to the waterway “cannot be bargainable”.


The dispute in the South China Sea

  •  Since 2010, China has been converting uninhabited islets intoneighbor artificial islets to bring it under UNCLOS (examples would include Haven Reef, Johnson South Reef and Fiery Cross Reef).
  • China has been changing the size and structure of the reefs by modifying their physical land features. It has also established airstrips on Parcel and Spratly.
  • Chinese fishing fleets are engaged in paramilitary work on behalf of the state rather than the commercial enterprise of fishing.
  • The US is very critical of this building of artificial islands and terms these actions of China as building a ‘great wall of sand’.
  • In 2020, Philippine government has decided to resume oil exploration in its exclusive economic zone, a 320-km stretch of waters where a coastal state can exclusively exploit maritime resources under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. 
  • This includes Reed Bank, which China also claims. This region is located in the disputed South China Sea. 

About the dispute 

  • It is a dispute over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas, and the Paracels and the Spratlys - two island chains claimed in whole or in part by a number of countries. 
  • Alongside the fully fledged islands, there are dozens of rocky outcrops, atolls, sandbanks and reefs, such as the Scarborough Shoal. 

Who Claims What? 

  • China: claims by far the largest portion of territory – an area defined by the “nine-dash line” which stretches hundreds of miles south and east from its most southerly province of Hainan. 
  • Vietnam: hotly disputes China‟s historical account, saying China had never claimed sovereignty over the islands before the 1940s. Vietnam says it has actively ruled over both the Paracels and the Spratlys since the 17th Century - and has the documents to prove it. 
  • Philippines: both the Philippines and China lay claim to the Scarborough Shoal (known as Huangyan Island in China) – a little more than 100 miles (160km) from the Philippines and 500 miles from China. 
  • Malaysia and Brunei: They lay claim to territory in the South China Sea that they say falls within their economic exclusion zones, as defined by UNCLOS - the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 
  • ○ Brunei does not claim any of the disputed islands, but Malaysia claims a small number of islands in the Spratlys.

Why in news 

  • The Philippines accused China of “incursion” after more than 200 militia boats were spotted near a disputed reef in the South China Sea, in a rare rebuke of its superpower neighbour. 
  • The Philippine coast guard detected the boats “in line formation” at the boomerang-shaped Whitsun Reef, around 320 km (175 nautical miles) west of Palawan Island on March 7. 

Maritime rights 

  • They call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating their maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory. 
  • This is a clear provocative action of militarizing the area. These are territories well within Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. 
  • The government was considering “appropriate action” to protect Filipino fishermen, the country‟s marine resources and maintain peace and stability in the area. 
  • Foreign Secretary had lodged a diplomatic protest over the ships. 
The Nine Dash Line and Its Basis in International Law - CHINA US Focus


Contesting Claims Over Islands

  • The Paracel Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
  •  The Spratly Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Philippines.
  •  The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by Philippines, China and Taiwan.

India's Stand

  •  India has maintained that it is not a party to the SCS dispute and its presence in the SCS is not to contain China but to secure its own economic interests, especially that of its energy security needs.
  • However, China’s increasing ability to decide and expand its role in the South China Sea has compelled India to re-evaluate its approach on the issue.
  •  As a key element of the Act East Policy, India has started internationalizing disputes in the Indo-Pacific region to oppose China’s threatening tactics in SCS.
  •  Further, India is using its Buddhist legacy to make a strong bond with the Southeast Asian region.
  •  India has also deployed its navy with Vietnam in the South China Sea for protection of sea lanes of communication (SLOC), denying China any space for assertion.
  •  Also, India is part of Quad initiative (India, US, Japan, Australia) and lynchpin of Indo-Pacific narrative. These initiatives are viewed as a containment strategy by China.


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