Tensions between China and the Philippines

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

For more than a month now, the Manila government has been denouncing the continuing violations of Philippine territorial sovereignty by the Chinese. At the end of March, as many as 200 ships were spotted in the coral reef area of Pentecost, believed to belong to the PLAN Coastal Defense Force. The naval units were moored in Whitsun Reef, about 320 kilometers west of the island of Palawan, and within the Philippine EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), as defined by the ICC (International Court of Arbitration).

Il Whitsun Reef belongs to the archipelago of Spratly, whose territory is claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

In fact, for China, the coral reef of Pentecost is part of the "Nansha" archipelago (Chinese name of the Spratly Islands) of which, de facto, took control despite the claims of the coastal countries to which it is still subject.

This isn't the only Filipino reef or islet Beijing wants to get its hands on. The first was that of Mischief Reef (photo), in the 90s of the last century. Then it was the turn of that of Scarborough in 2012. The Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague ruled in 2016 that Chinese claims on the islands in the South China Sea had no legal basis and that Beijing had no "historical rights" to lodge. However, this did not change the attitude of the Chinese authorities.

In recent years, China has turned seven disputed coral reefs into island bases and installed them bubbles A2 / AD (with anti-ship and surface-to-air missile systems), contributing enormously to increasing tensions in the region.

The Philippines considers the Spratly, where it occupies nine islands and islets, as part of their western province of Palawan.

In addition, since last January, the Chinese Coast Guard has been authorized to use force, without warning, against any ship sailing, without authorization, in the waters under its jurisdiction. This also includes the waters surrounding the islets that passed under Chinese control. In fact, incidents with the Philippine Coast Guard and fishermen have multiplied in recent weeks.

On May 3, Manila protested against the "harassment" of Filipino ships patrolling near the Scarborough Reef by the Chinese Coast Guard. The Filipino foreign minister described the actions taken by Beijing as "bellicose".

The minister also denounced "the naval blockade, dangerous maneuvers and radio threats by the Chinese Coast Guard against Philippine naval units that were carrying out legitimate patrols and exercises" near the Scarborough Reef, on 24 and 25 April last.

Photo: China MoD / AMTI