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Interview: Manila intensifies tension in South China Sea -- former diplomat

Editor: Zhang Pengfei 丨Xinhua

06-12-2016 09:17 BJT

Full coverage: South China Sea Is Indisputable Part of China

MANILA, June 9 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine government has been behind the intensifying tensions in the South China Sea, a former diplomat of the country told Xinhua on Wednesday.

Alberto Encomienda, former secretary-general of Maritime and Ocean Affairs Center of the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department, said: "China has been for the negotiations all along, but from the beginning we are not."

The Philippine Foreign Affairs Department said it has conducted over 50 consultations and negotiations with China from 1995 to 2012, which did not happen, said the diplomat, who was then in charge of the negotiation "before it exploded."

Encomienda noted that China "has been sending quiet feelers to improve relations."

"Prior to the 2005's APEC (forum summit), China sent two delegations to the Philippines, and invited delegations from the House of Representatives to Beijing. We never gave this much attention. After the summit, China sent feelers to the Philippines again, we never responded," he revealed.

The former Philippine maritime official also said that China should not be demonized in terms of the South China Sea issue, since it was the Philippines who first engaged in reclamation activities in South China Sea, building airstrips on China's Zhongye Island.

"We were the first to do reclamation in South China Sea. So we cannot demonize China for reclamation," he said, revealing that the airfield on Zhongye Island "was built on top of live coral reefs."

Encomienda also lashed out at the United States for its mounting military presence in the South China Sea and its purpose to set the Philippines against China on this issue.

"The U.S. is very against China's reclamation in South China Sea ... Look, how much China is spending to reclaim those reefs? Nothing compared to what the U.S. spent on the Philippines for EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement). In short, China is reclaiming reefs, but America is reclaiming the Philippines," he said.

After President Benigno Aquino III's first state visit to the United States in 2010, "everything that came up as the Philippines' South China Sea position has something to do with 'rule-based' and 'legal framework.' But these are rule basis determined by the U.S.," said Encomienda.

The former diplomat emphasized that the Philippines "is in urgent need of an independent foreign policy."

by Xinhua Writers Yang Tianmu, Wang Wen

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