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Thursday, April 24, 2014  

Manila vows to fight to ‘last man standing’ over South China Sea
MANILA The Philippines vowed on Thursday to fight China “to the last man standing”, as a Chinese warship patrolled around a remote reef occupied by a handful of Filipino marines in disputed waters.

In the latest flare-up over competing claims to parts of the South China Sea, the Philippines this week denounced the “provocative and illegal presence” of the warship and a fleet of Chinese fishing vessels near Second Thomas Shoal.

After China brushed off the protest and insisted it owned the tiny reef and islets that are home to rich fishing grounds, the Philippines on Thursday ramped up the rhetoric against its much more powerful rival.

“To the last soldier standing, we will fight for what is ours,” Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters when asked if the Philippines would bow to Chinese intimidation and pull its forces from the shoal. However Gazmin said the Philippines was not intending to send any military reinforcements to the area, and there had been no confrontations between the two sides at the shoal since the Chinese vessels arrived early this month.

Second Thomas Shoal is one of nine Filipino-occupied islands or islets in the Spratly Islands chain.

China says it has sovereign rights over nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters far away from its main landmass and approaching the coasts of Southeast Asian countries.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the sea, and the area has for decades been regarded as a potential trigger for major military conflict in the region.

All claimants, except Brunei, have troops stationed on various islands and atolls in the Spratlys - the biggest archipelago in the sea - to assert their claims.

Separately, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario, speaking at a Tokyo business conference, said China’s “nine-dash line claim encompassing almost the entire South China Sea” is “excessive,” says a Tokyo report.

“In addition to the South China Sea, we have in Northeast Asia, home to Asia’s biggest economic powerhouses, several disputes that have adversely affected relations between and among Japan, China and the Republic of Korea.

“The competing territorial and maritime disputes are causing considerable tension that could lead to conflict,” he warned.

Agencies
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