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Philippine MPs visit Spratlys amid China warnings

Philippine lawmakers flew to an island in the disputed Spratly chain Wednesday, despite warnings from China that the trip would destabilise Verb 1. destabilise - become unstable; "The economy destabilized rapidly"
destabilize

change - undergo a change; become different in essence; losing one's or its original nature; "She changed completely as she grew older"; "The weather changed last night"
 the region and damage ties.

Five members of parliament, joined by a small party of soldiers, local officials and journalists, arrived on Thitu island Coordinates:

Thitu Island (Filipino Pag-asa; Chinese 中业岛, Zhongye Dao; Vietnamese: Đảo Thị Tứ) is the second largest
 aboard two private planes, and raised two Philippine flags above a government building.

Legislator Walden Bello Walden Bello (born 1945) is a left-wing author, academic, and political analyst. He is a professor of sociology and public administration at the University of the Philippines, as well as executive director of Focus on the Global South.  said the delegation came to promote a peaceful solution to the territorial dispute A territorial dispute is a disagreement over the possession/control of land between two or more states, or over the possession or control of land by one state after it has conquered it from a former state no longer currently recognized by the occupying power. , but stressed that Filipinos who know the island as "Pag-asa" are ready to defend "Philippine" territory.

"We come in peace, we support a diplomatic solution. But let there be no doubt in anybody's mind, in any foreign powers' mind, that if they dare to eject us from Pag-asa... Filipinos will not take that sitting down," he said.

"Filipinos are born to resist aggression. Filipinos are willing to die for their soil."

The visit to the flat, wind-swept island comes as tensions rise over the Spratlys chain which is wholly or partially claimed by China and the Philippines as well as Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Thitu is the largest of the Philippine-occupied islands in the Spratlys, an archipelago believed to sit on vast natural resources and which also straddles shipping lanes vital to world trade.

About 60 Filipinos live on Thitu, which is just 37 hectares (91 acres) in size and lies about 450 kilometres (280 miles) northwest of Palawan island, the nearest major Philippine landmass land·mass  
n.
A large unbroken area of land.


landmass
Noun

a large continuous area of land


landmass  
.

China's closest big landmass is Hainan island, more than 900 kilometres away.

Southeast Asian governments voiced "serious concern" over the territorial dispute at regional security talks in the Indonesian resort of Bali this week.

They announced they had struck agreement with China on a set of guidelines for cooperation in the area, but diplomats conceded the deal was watered down in the quest for Verb 1. quest for - go in search of or hunt for; "pursue a hobby"
quest after, go after, pursue

look for, search, seek - try to locate or discover, or try to establish the existence of; "The police are searching for clues"; "They are searching for the
 a compromise.

Several incidents between claimants have raised the political temperature recently.

Chinese forces have allegedly opened fire on Filipino fishermen, shadowed an oil exploration vessel employed by a Philippine firm and put up structures in areas claimed by the Philippines.

China had criticised the Filipino legislators' trip.

"It... serves no purpose but to undermine peace and stability in the region and sabotage the China-Philippines relationship," the Chinese embassy in Manila said in a statement Tuesday.

Bello brushed aside the criticism.

"Maybe they are not used to democratic processes," he told around 80 people gathered for the flag-raising ceremony on the island, including soldiers, police, coast guard personnel, and government employees.

Journalists on the trip reported seeing anti-aircraft artillery rusting under the baking sun, as well as several fishing boats in surrounding waters which one of the legislators said were Chinese.

Obnor Lenasic, a 43-year-old municipal employee who has lived on Thitu for six years, said that with the spotty telephone and satellite TV signals, news of the Spratlys dispute seemed very remote to the residents.

The Chinese, Filipinos and Vietnamese keep to their own islands in the region, although the Chinese and Vietnamese would at times fire warning shots The firing of shots or delivery of ordnance by personnel or weapons systems in the vicinity of a person, vessel, or aircraft as a signal to immediately cease activity. Warning shots are one measure to convince a potentially hostile force to withdraw or cease its threatening actions.  if approached, he said.

"But if we see each other out at sea while fishing, we wave at each other. Sometimes we do barter. We give them coconuts and they give us Chinese cigarettes," Lenasic said.

"I like the peace and quiet here."
Copyright 2011 AFP Asian Edition
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Author:Staff Reporter
Publication:AFP Asian Edition
Date:Jul 20, 2011
Words:547
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