- Associated Press - Monday, July 23, 2012

MANILA — President Benigno Aquino III said Monday that the Philippines will not back down in a South China Sea dispute with China and that his country’s military will soon get dozens of new aircraft and ships for maritime defense.

Mr. Aquino announced in his annual state of the nation address that more than 40 military aircraft — including attack helicopters and two newly refurbished C-130 cargo planes — and other weapons will be delivered in the next two years to bolster Philippine military muscle amid renewed territorial tensions in the South China Sea.

A second former U.S. Coast Guard cutter is to arrive soon from the United States, following a refurbished cutter that was relaunched by the Philippine navy last year as its largest and most modern warship.

Washington has also provided $30 million to strengthen the Philippine military in addition to helping establish a national coast watch center to help protect the country’s 22,400-mile coastline, Mr. Aquino said.

He also stressed that the Philippines hopes to forge a peaceful solution that will be acceptable to China.

A standoff erupted in April between Chinese and Philippine ships at Scarborough Shoal, which both countries claim. The territory is called Huangyan Island in China and Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines. Mr. Aquino withdrew his country’s ships from the area last month as tensions with Beijing escalated, but Chinese government ships have stayed.

Some Philippine lawmakers have suggested that the Aquino administration tone down its rhetoric and quietly negotiate a compromise with China. A senator has described the lopsided feud as a clash between a mosquito and a dragon.

“There are those who say that we should let Bajo de Masinloc go. We should avoid the trouble,” Mr. Aquino said in his nationally televised speech before Congress. “But if someone entered your yard and told you he owned it, would you agree? Would it be right to give away that which is rightfully ours?”

“I do not think it excessive to ask that our rights be respected, just as we respect their rights as a fellow nation in a world we need to share,” he added, referring to China.

Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei also have conflicting claims in the South China Sea. Many fear the resource-rich and busy waters could spark Asia’s next major armed conflict.

China, meanwhile, on Monday named the mayor and other officials of a new city it established last month under its southernmost Hainan province to administer all the disputed territories it claims in the South China Sea, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Xiao Jie was named mayor of Sansha city, which will have a military presence, Xinhua said.

Vietnam and the Philippines have protested the city’s establishment.

About 6,000 police officers were deployed to secure the House of Representatives, where Mr. Aquino spoke, and nearby roads. Several people were injured when riot police clashed with thousands of left-wing and trade union protesters who were seeking higher wages, land reform and a halt to alleged human rights violations.



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