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Why is South China Sea so highly contested?

01 June 2018

Rep. Gary Alejano, a former Philippine marine officer, mentioned the incident during a hearing Wednesday at the House of Representatives that focused on the South China Sea territorial issue and was attended by top defense and diplomatic officials.

It is, however, unclear if USA actions can successfully reverse current trends in the South China Sea given China's level of entrenchment.

Those who signed the resolution were Senators Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, Franklin Drilon, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, Antonio Trillanes 4th, Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015.

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"It must not allow the People Republic of China (PRC) to continue posing a threat to Philippine interest in the WPS and the security of the region", the resolution stated.

"If the Duterte administration wants the public to trust its approach in the West Philippine Sea, certain details meant for public consumption should be released", he added, referring to the South China Sea by the name used in the Philippines and asking the government to be more transparent in disclosing such incidents.

China says it is within its rights to build up defenses on islands in the South China Sea that it believes are its sovereign territory.

"Our soldiers should not be harassed when they deliver supplies or when they fix the runways", Cayetano said, referring to the small airstrip on Pag-asa [Thitu], the largest Philippine-occupied island in the Spratlys.

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Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told the hearing the Philippines had protested the incident and resolved the matter "quietly", but refused to disclose details.

"While China has maintained that the construction of the islands is to ensure safety at sea, navigation assistance, search and rescue, fisheries protection and other non-military functions, the placement of these weapon systems is only for military use", Logan said.

The lighthouses will cost P10 million and would be manned by personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard. "If anyone gets the natural resources in the West Philippine Sea-South China Sea, he will go to war". Cayetano mentioned China had been informed of the "pink traces".

"When they (Chinese) do things that are opaque to the rest of us, then we can not cooperate in areas that we would otherwise cooperate in", Mattis told reporters, adding that American diplomats were working on the issue and heard concerns about Chinese actions not just from the USA government but other regional allies as well.

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"The occasion is more about exchanges on [military] theories, so by sending academic representatives, we can refute those wrong viewpoints", he said. Alejano asked the government to condemn the Chinese harassment. The PLA's component land, air and naval forces must be able to operate jointly and prevail in both conventional and new theaters of operation, he said.

Why is South China Sea so highly contested?