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China’s Spratlys intrusions connected to Gloria Arroyo deal

The current word war between the Philippines and China is another proof of the continuing curse of Gloria Arroyo on the Filipino people. The latest series of diplomatic protests lodged by the Philippines with China and submitted also to the United Nations have its roots to the controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking entered into by the Arroyo government with China in 2004 which allowed China and later on Vietnam to explore not only the Philippine-occupied islands in the disputed mineral-rich Spratlys but areas that are clearly Philippine territory. The JMSU was signed during Gloria Arroyo’s 2004 visit to China which paved the way for the signing of at least two graft-riddled deals: North Rail and national broadband network with ZTE agreements. Last March, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest when two Chinese patrol boats intruded into Reed Bank in Western Palawan where the Department of Energy, together with a private firm, was conducting a seismic survey. The AFP's Western Command sent a Navy team to drive away the Chinese ships in what Philippine officials assert as "Philippine territory." It was followed by a much-delayed protest last April by the Philippines over China’s nine-dash line map submitted to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. China’s map, submitted to the U.N on May 7, 2009 supports their claim that the whole South China belongs to them including the Spratly islands which are being claimed in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. This month, the Philippines again protested the discovery on Amy Douglas Bank, also known as Iroquois reef, that the Chinese have erected a number of steel posts and placed a buoy near the breaker. The Philippine Navy reported that Chinese ships were seen unloading building materials. The Philippine Navy had removed the posts and the buoy. After the Amy Douglas protest, the Philippines again filed another diplomatic protest over a February 2011 incident when two Philippine fishing vessels were fired upon by Chinese warships at Jackson Atoll. The fishermen sought the help of the Philippine Navy which accompanied them back to the area to retrieve their anchors. The Navy reported seeing Chinese fishermen exploiting the marine resources in the area. Philippine officials said all the areas that Chinese armed ships intruded lately were within the Philippines' 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone. The Chinese, on the other hand, asserted its ownership over areas covered by the South China Sea. This prompted the Philippines to adopt the term "West Philippine Sea" referring to the same area in the same manner that Vietnam refers to the same area as East Asia Sea. India, by the way, does not claim ownership of the Indian Ocean. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin are alarmed by the latest pattern of intrusions. They don’t want another Mischief Reef incident to happen. In 1995, the Philippines discovered military-type structures on Mischief Reef, 150 nautical miles west of Palawan and 620 nautical miles southeast of China. Despite Philippine protest, China never left Mischief Reef and has even expanded its fortifications in the island complete with parabolic antennas and machine guns. There’s another thing that concerns the Aquino government. When Del Rosario met with the Chinese Embassy charge d’affaires last May 31 over the Amy Douglas intrusion, he conveyed the Philippine government’s concern over reports in Chinese state media about China's planned installation of its most advanced oil rig in the South China Sea next month. Diplomatic sources said China’s planned oil exploration is related to the JMSU which was not continued after the first phase because of questions of legality, the case is still pending with the Philippine Supreme Court, because the project included areas that were not disputed. Under the Constitution, "exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State." To go around the constitutional prohibition, the government changed the word "exploration" to "seismic survey." The initial exploration/seismic survey was conducted to find out how much resources are there in the area. Based on the results, the Philippines, China, and Vietnam are supposed to jointly develop the resources. The Chinese provided the ships, Vietnam the scientists and the Philippines interpreted the data gathered. With the information gathered from the survey, it was expected that development of the area would proceed. China’s recent moves are seen as moving to the next phase of the project. The Philippines government, on the other hand, is stopped by questions on the legality of the project. Under the JMSU, Reed Bank, said to contain about 3.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 440 million barrels of oil, is included. The Philippines now insists it is Philippine territory and not part of the disputed areas. Oppositors to the JMSU had expressed concern that by entering into the project, the Philippines surrendered sovereignty over the resource-rich area and strengthened China’s claim over it. There were allegations that the Arroyo government’s sell-out of Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea was connected to a number of multi-million dollar Chinese loans for projects that became riddled with graft and corruption. That’s one of the crimes of Gloria Arroyo against the Filipino people.