Philippine president adamant over island

Benigno Aquino addresses nation, saying he will not back down from dispute with China over Scarborough Shoal area.

    President Aquino said he does not "think it excessive to ask that our rights be respected" [AP]
    President Aquino said he does not "think it excessive to ask that our rights be respected" [AP]

    The Philippines will not back down from a South China Sea dispute with China, Benigno Aquino, the country’s president, has said.

    While delivering the state of the nation address on Monday, Aquino also said that he would soon secure dozens of new aircraft and ships for maritime defence.

    Aquino said more than 40 military aircraft - along with other weapons - would be delivered in the next two years to bolster Philippine military muscle.

    Philippines and China have been locked in a conflict over islands that both countries claim in the South China Sea.

    Aquino did not disclose which country would supply the weapons but said a second US Coast Guard cutter would arrive soon from longtime ally, the United States.

    A refurbished Coast Guard cutter from the US was relaunched by the Philippine navy last year as its largest and most modern warship.

    Washington has also provided $30m to strengthen the Philippine military aside from US help in establishing a national coast watch centre that would help protect the archipelago's 36,000-km coastline, according to Aquino.

    But he stressed that the Philippines was aiming to forge a peaceful solution that would be acceptable to China.

    Mosquito and a dragon

    A standoff erupted in April between Chinese and Philippine ships at the Scarborough Shoal, which both countries claim.

    China calls the shoal Huangyan Island while Manila calls it Bajo de Masinloc.

    Aquino withdrew his country's ships from the contested area last month as tensions with Beijing escalated, but Chinese government ships have stayed.

    Some legislators have suggested that the Aquino administration tone down its rhetoric and quietly negotiate a compromise with China.

    A Philippine senator has described the lopsided feud as a clash between a "mosquito" and "a dragon".

    "There are those who say that we should let Bajo de Masinloc go. We should avoid the trouble," Aquino said in his nationally televised speech before Congress.

     "But if someone entered your yard and told you he owned it, would you agree? Would it be right to give away that which is rightfully ours?

    "I do not think it excessive to ask that our rights be respected, just as we respect their [China's] rights as a fellow nation in a world we need to share.”

    Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also have conflicting claims in the South China Sea. Many fear the resource-rich and busy waters could spark Asia's next major armed conflict.

    About 6,000 police officers were deployed to secure the House of Representatives, where Aquino spoke, and nearby roads.

    Several people were injured when riot police clashed with thousands of left-wing and trade union protesters, who were seeking higher wages, land reform and a stop to alleged human rights violations.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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