Published: 12:48, May 17, 2024
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Manila recklessly pushing envelope on disputes
By China Daily

The latest farce staged by the Philippines to challenge China's sovereignty over Huangyan Island in the South China Sea came to an end on Thursday after a convoy of so-called civilian boats tasked with trespassing into the waters around the Chinese reef — in the name of distributing fuel and food to Filipino fishermen there — called off the plan even before reaching the targeted area while declaring "mission accomplished".

To save face and give itself an out, a spokesman for Atin Ito coalition, the organizer of the mission, told reporters that an "advance team" had already completed the provision task a day earlier about 50 kilometers from the reef.

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That the Philippine coast guard deployed three patrol ships and a light plane on Wednesday to escort the convoy and invited dozens of journalists to join the voyage indicates it was just another attempt by the Philippines to push the envelope on the territorial disputes with China.

It would be naive to think that the Philippines refrained from pushing ahead with its provocative moves out of its own will. The deployment of many Chinese vessels including several China Coast Guard ships patrolling around Huangyan Island has obviously served to deter the Philippine convoy from taking further adventurous actions, which would only end in fiasco.

The increasing frequency with which the Philippines is raising tensions with China in the South China Sea suggests it is trying to test China's limit and will not stop until it hits a dead end.

Just a little more than two weeks ago, a Philippine coast guard ship and a government vessel tried to intrude into the waters surrounding Huangyan, only to be expelled by China Coast Guard ships.

Beijing warned Manila on Wednesday against any attempts to infringe on China's sovereignty, and reiterated its determination and readiness to take countermeasures in accordance with the law.

It is not the first time that Manila has used so-called civilian vessels to encroach on Chinese territories in the South China Sea in the hope of misleading the international community and portraying China as the country that "bullies the weak".

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Atin Ito led a similar mission in December to deliver supplies to troops stationed on a warship that the Philippines illegally grounded on China's Ren'ai Reef in 1999. It also cut short that mission after CCG ships took necessary measures to safeguard China's rights and enforce the law.

The constant disputes and confrontations at sea between China and the Philippines over the past more than one year are mainly due to the Philippine government reneging on the previous agreements and arrangement the two countries reached to maintain peace and stability in the region.

The Philippines must stop provoking China. The more reckless it becomes in doing so, the stronger China's response will be.