Chinese ad for Paracels use can lead to same for PHL territories in South China Sea — expert


China’s recent announcement encouraging the public to apply for the use of uninhabited islands in the Paracels may extend to the rest of the South China Sea if protest action is not taken, a maritime expert warned.

“The Philippines, even if it’s not among the claimants in the Paracels, should file a protest as an action in of itself that it is going to escalate the situation in the South China Sea as a whole,” lawyer Jay Batongbacal explained in a forum on Monday.

Batongbacal added, “The Paracels are still in the South China Sea and it’s clear for us that whatever China does in the Paracels, eventually they [will] also do in the Spratlys.”

Global Times, a Chinese state-run paper, reported on July 5 that Hainan is allowing individuals to use uninhabited islands in the Paracels for “tourism and construction purposes for up to 50 years.”

The Paracel Islands are a group of islands in the South China Sea claimed by China (which calls them Xisha), Vietnam and Taiwan.

Batongbacal called this development “even more alarming” as this essentially allows China to use civilians “to do the work of taking over and occupying new features.

“Obviously, the intention is, if it’s a civilian activity, then it will be very difficult for government forces to respond, and they will be seen as doing aggression, in which case the Chinese will be provoked into taking more drastic measures against claimants,” he said.

The Philippines does not claim the Paracel Islands, but the entire archipelago is in the range of the bombers landed by China on the isles.

China has already built military bases on some territories in the Spratly Islands with anti-air and anti-ship capabilities.