Manila's antics costly

Updated: 2012-05-11 11:23

(China Daily)

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Most Chinese travel agencies have suspended travel to the Philippines following the escalation of tensions over Huangyan Island. This precaution is highly necessary as Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying said on Tuesday that China is not optimistic about the situation.

It is obvious that a decline in the number of Chinese tourists traveling to the Philippines will have a negative effect on the country's tourism industry as China is among its top four sources of incoming international tourists.

But this is only the tip of an iceberg in the overall interaction between the two countries. In 2011, bilateral trade set a historical record to reach $30 billion. Beijing is Manila's third largest trading partner.

Against such a rosy picture, the Philippine's GDP growth rate slipped to 3.7 percent in 2011, compared to 7.6 percent in 2010, and the government is facing a great deal of pressure from the public to improve the domestic situation.

You would think that Manila would strive for a stable, growing relationship, especially in trade, with Beijing as it serves its interests best. Yet, in the past month it has not hesitated to put its ties with Beijing at risk.

After its gunboat harassed Chinese fishermen in early April, it sent more ships to the area to face off with Chinese fishery administration vessels. Meanwhile, its ill-advised politicians openly enlist third-party help to back its illegal maritime territorial claims.

Instead of de-escalating the tension, Manila has tried to infuriate China with one thing after another. It gave the Chinese island a Philippine name, and has said it will bring the dispute to international arbitration, even though there are no international laws or norms that support such bogus territorial claims.

As to the country's allegation that Huangyan Island belongs to the Philippines, nothing could be further away from the truth. It does not require a historian or lawyer to point out that Manila's claim is pure fantasy.

In its own official maps published in 1981, 1984 and 2006, the island is not included as Philippine territory. Some Filipinos are also asking how and when their country suddenly acquired the island.

Manila is only shooting itself in the foot with its antics. But it should know that China is fully prepared to respond to anything the Philippines might do to further escalate the dispute.