(Photo: Reuters / Erik De Castro)
Protesters chant anti-China slogans as they march toward the Chinese consulate in Manila's Makati financial district May 11, 2012. About 200 Filipino activists, carrying placards and banners and waving small Philippine flags, held a noisy but peaceful protest on Friday outside a Chinese consular office in Manila over Scarborough Shoal islands in the South China Sea claimed by both nations.
China sees the Philippines as a US proxy. According to a foreign policy expert, this is the reason why the Asian power is "overreacting" in the maritime and territorial dispute it has with the Philippines.
"The Philippines, in the overall scheme of things, is not important enough for China to worry about. China is overreacting to everything because they see us as a US ally," said Aileen San Pablo- Baviera, professor of Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines told Rappler, a local media outlet.
Baviera, a former dean of the Asian Center at the state-run university, said while the Philippines may have a problem with China, the latter's problem is with the United States, as it sees the Philippines as a US Proxy.
Prof. Baviera, who is also the editor-in-chief of the Wiley-Blackwell – Policy Studies Organization journal "Asian Politics and Policy", said that her country, the Philippines, has minimal leverage and must be active in "all fronts."
The foreign policy expert said the stand off between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal, a group of rock formation northwest of the Philippines, is the lowest point in the diplomatic relations between the two countries since it was formally established in 1975.
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To her, the way the issue of the dispute had been handled by both countries, which was subject to extensive media coverage locally and internationally, had made the stand off a "very public issue."
"There is suspicion and resentment on both sides, and we had never gotten this far before," she said.
Baviera criticized the present Aquino administration for not playing its cards right. Hence, she said, the country is suffering the consequence.
The Philippines experienced a set-back when in the latest summit of regional body ASEAN, Cambodia blocked attempts to issue a joint communique that includes a reference to the dispute in the South China Sea.
Late in May this year, China rejected imports of bananas and other fruits from the Philippines which coincidentally came just as the dispute over Scarborough Shoal was on the limelight. The Philippine embassy in China denied any suspension of such imports by the Chinese government.
Baviera had been teaching since 1998 with most of her research focusing primarily on contemporary China, East Asian regional security with particular focus on maritime affairs, and territorial disputes and regional integration.
Prof. Aileen Baviera, along with lawyer Jay Batongbacal and a representative from the foreign affairs department of the Philippines, will speak next weekend in a forum "Philippine-China Territorial and Maritime Dispute: Prospect for Conflict Resolution and Constructive Engagement". The audience for the forum comprise of faculty and students from different universities and colleges in the Philippines, at the Asian Center in the University of the Philippines.
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