Troop build-up in Spratlys

MANILA (AFP) - The President of the Philippines, Fidel Ramos yesterday ordered more troops to the disputed Spratly archipelago, saying his nation "must prepare for the worst" in its dispute over occupation by China.

Analysts, however, discounted a military confrontation over the potentially oil-rich South China Sea chain because Manila is aware of its military weakness and Peking has much to lose in its diplomatic relations with its South-east Asian neighbours.

The Spratlys are also claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

"I have ordered the department of defence to strengthen, within our limited capabilities, our detachments and our naval presence in the [area] and to intensify its aerial surveillance," President Ramos said as he opened a meeting of his National Security Council.

Manila has accused China of building structures and deploying warships on Mischief Reef, 135 nautical miles off the south-west Philippines island of Palawan and is within the country's 200-mile economic zone. It is part of the island chain that the Philippines has declared as part of its territory.

Mr Ramos pledged that Manila - the weakest militarily among the six claimants - will "exhaust every diplomatic option available", including the UN Security Council. He added: "At the same time, we all realise that, while hoping for the best, we must prepare for the worst."

Congressman Bonifacio Gillego, a former army intelligence officer, said Mr Ramos's order appeared to veer from the Philippines' earlier position of pure diplomacy and warned that beefing up troops in the area was "provocative".

Mr Ramos, in a new approach, proposed that every disputed island be placed "under the stewardship of the country closest to it", provided that the steward allowed anchorage and other "peaceful pursuits". He also suggested that all claimants stop issuing unilateral grants of drilling concessions in the disputed territories.

China and Vietnam have granted overlapping drilling rights to US firms to explore for oil in one bloc. Chinese warships blocked a Vietnamese oil rig in the area last year.

Mr Ramos said the Chinese incursion on the Philippines-claimed reef was "not just a bilateral problem." He warned that fighting in the area "could easily burst the balloon of political stability that underpins East Asia's growth".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Account Executive

£23000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Account Executive is r...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing Executive

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Full Time position available now at a growing...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future