China protests over Philippine politicians visit to Pag-asa Island

BEIJING (MindaNews/22 July) – China voiced strong protest over the recent visit of several Filipino politicians and military personnel at the disputed Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu reiterated that China holds indisputable sovereignty in the island, which they named as Zhongye Island.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters,” he said in a statement.

On Wednesday, a contingent of lawmakers flew to the island under the slogan of “peace and sovereignty” mission.

The delegation composed of Walden Bello (Akbayan Party List), Kaka Bag-ao (Akbayan Party List), Teddy Brawner Baguilat (Ifugao) and Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar) was accompanied by Lt. Gen Juancho Sabban (chief of the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines), Palawan Gov. Baham Mitra and Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon.

The lawmakers said they want to assert Philippine claim on the island and to solve the dispute in a peaceful manner.

But the Chinese government sees the visit as an intrusion to their territory.

“The move of the Philippine side seriously infringed China’s territorial sovereignty,” Mr. Ma said.

The Chinese government had earlier warned the Filipino politicians not to pursue the visit in the island.

The visit on Pag-asa was covered heavily in primetime newscast by several TV stations across China on Thursday. The TV footage showed the singing of national anthem and flag raising in the island.

The lawmakers’ trip came a day after foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have come up with a guideline with Beijing to focus more on the rule-based solution to end the disputes in the West Philippine Sea during its 44th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.

Philippines and Vietnam have earlier expressed several complaints on China’s recent aggression in the West Philippine Sea. These include the harassment of fishermen, cutting off underwater cables, and coercing local oil explorer in the area. (Darwin Wally T. Wee / MindaNews)