08/26/2016, 15.04
PHILIPPINES – VIETNAM
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Some 600 Vietnamese and Filipinos pray in Manila for peace in the South China Sea

by Quang Ha

The rally was held in front of the World Center, in central Manila. Seven Filipino priests celebrated Mass for protesters, who want Beijing to respect The Hague ruling and suspend its operations in disputed waters. China announces military exercises with Russia in the East China Sea.

Manila (AsiaNews) – More than 600 people, including Filipinos and Vietnamese, marched in central Manila to demand that China respects the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and change its aggressive attitude in the waters of the South China Sea.

The peaceful demonstration, which took place last week in front of the World Center in Makati City, saw the presence of seven Filipino priests who celebrated Mass together with local protesters and the Vietnamese, who are economic migrants, praying for peace in the disputed waters.

The dispute in the South China Sea has dragged on for decades and is the result of China’s claim to a large chunk of the sea, including the Spratly and Paracel islands. The same areas are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.

China is building a series of artificial islands with military installations and lighthouses. It has also sunk Vietnamese and Filipino boats and fishing trawlers, escalating tensions.

On 12 July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (CPA) on the Law of the Sea ruled that China is wrong. According to the judges, Beijing "has no right" to the region and the construction of artificial atolls, lighthouses and airstrips constitutes a violation of international law. Beijing has said it would not respect the ruling of a "failed" court.

From Monday to Wednesday of this week, China conducted military exercise in the northern Gulf of Vietnam, violating Vietnam’s maritime sovereignty.

China’s National Maritime Administration banned all boats, ships, fishing boats from entering the area of the southern part of Hainan Island province and the northern coast of Vietnam.

For the Vietnamese government, “We have the full legal basis and historical evidence to assert sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratlys as well as the legal rights of Vietnam for our waters to be determined in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982). All activities of other countries in the two islands without the agreement of Vietnam are illegal and worthless”.

In defiance of The Hague ruling, China in mid-July contacted the Philippines Ministry of Foreign, asking it to ignore the arbitration. Manila rejected the request.

However, on 9 August, new Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted to de-escalate tensions in the South China Sea in to avoid a direct confrontation with Beijing.

China and Russia also plan military exercises in the East China Sea on 12-19 September 2016, where China and Japan are at odds over other islands. This military exercise codenamed 'Sea Cooperation 2016'.

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