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PH contingency plan amid sea row up

Puerto Princesa—President Benigno Aquino III said on Wednesday that the government is drawing up a contingency plan amid possible more violent incursions in disputed territories in the South China Sea.

Aquino made the statement following the sinking of a Vietnamese boat that was rammed by a Chinese vessel near a controversial oil rig near the disputed Paracel Island.

“We are closely monitoring the developments. We are gathering all the lessons we have learned. Our Armed Forces of the Philippines, Coast Guard, and other concerned agencies are looking at possible scenarios and what our appropriate responses should be,” the President said.

“But if we make public our responses, that is like giving up our game plan for those whose beliefs are not aligned with ours. So we should keep secret our contingency plans,” he added.

Vietnam said some 40 Chinese boats surrounded one of its ships on Monday before one of them rammed it. All 10 Vietnamese fishermen on board were rescued.

But a commentary which appeared in China’s Xinhua News Agency accused Vietnam of “increasingly aggressive and dangerous acts’ against Chinese oil drilling in Paracels, which China refers to as Xisha islands.

“Such recklessness must stop,” the commentary said, while accusing Vietnamese of making “irresponsible and wild accusations” against China, “which could encourage and embolden Vietnamese activists into undertaking even more aggressive acts.”

The article explained that the incident was a “result of a kamikaze-style attack (by the Vietnamese) as the boat deliberately ran into Chinese waters and collided with one of the vessels protecting the oil rig.”

It added that the “the Chinese side displayed restraint and issued warnings that were ignored by the Vietnamese boat.”

As this developed, Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh told Vietnam’s state-owned VNS news agency that that China has moved its oil rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 to a new site on Wednesday, but said it was “still completely within Viet Nam’s continental shelf.”

Binh added that the new position of the rig still violated Viet Nam’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction.

Binh was responding to an announcement on Monday by the China Maritime Safety Administration that the rig had been moved from 15 degrees 29 minutes 58 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 12 minutes 06 seconds east longitude to 15 degrees 33 minutes 38 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 34 minutes 62 seconds east longitude.

“Viet Nam resolutely opposes the action and requests China to immediately stop the rig’s operation, withdraw it and escort service ships from Viet Nam’s waters, and not repeat such acts,” he said.

“Viet Nam has full legal foundations and historical evidence to assert its undeniable sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago.”

Also on Wednesday, the Vietnamese Consulate Department under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned representatives from the Chinese Embassy in Ha Noi and handed them a diplomatic note protesting against all of China’s recent actions.

Binh said China used force to occupy the Hoang Sa archipelago and its action violated international law.

As of 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, the rig was moved four nautical miles east-northeast at a speed of 4.5 nautical miles per hour.

This was revealed by the deputy head of the Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance Department, Ha Le, at a press conference in Ha Noi.

At 10am, the rig was anchored at a new site, 25 nautical miles east-southeast of Tri Ton Island in Viet Nam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, 23 nautical miles east-northeast of its previous location.

Vietnamese observation vessels have maintained their presence about six nautical miles from the rig.

Two Chinese planes constantly swept over the rig as it was moving.

China also deployed larger and higher capacity vessels operated by military and marine surveillance units. With Xinhua, VNS

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