Sigh, we’ve been down this road before. Both the Philippines and Vietnam are severely unhappy over China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea including sovereignty over the Spratly Islands. In fact, the Philippines is so fumed, it just announced that it’s not even going to call it the South China Sea anymore. From now on, President Benigno Aquino explained, it’s going to be known as the West Philippine Sea. (Erm, right. Good luck with convincing Google Maps to change over to that one). The name switch in all likelihood was due to a Chinese ship reportedly harassing a Philippines oil exploration vessel which the Philippines didn’t take so kindly to or…a Chinese ship which was only clearly exercising its sovereign rights in Chinese-owned waters, depending on which story you prefer.
However the Phillppines back up the motives for the name change with non-political reasons too:
The change of name was prompted by science and not by politics, explained Department of Science and Technology (DoST) Undersecretary Graciano Yumul. Meteorological agencies usually name bodies of water based on their land-orientation, Yumul said, adding that weather reports from PAGASA have been using West Philippine Sea instead of the South China Sea.
The departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence, including the government-owned weather station, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) have been using “West Philippine Sea” in reference to the body of water faced by western Philippines, said Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. Even Vietnam has called the body of water as East Sea, said Lacierda.
Speaking of Vietnam, it’s also another country squabbling with China right now.
Things deteriorated enough between the two that Vietnam conducted naval drills for 9 hrs on Monday and continued it into Tuesday yesterday. They’ve “accused a Chinese fishing vessel, backed up by two patrol boats, of snapping the cables of an exploration boat operated by state oil company PetroVietnam, prompting a sharp exchange of words between Beijing and Hanoi and triggering rare street protests in Vietnam’s biggest cities,” says the WSJ.
Many of them protested outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi, as seen below:
Aside from China, Philippines, and Vietnam, Taiwan also claims the entire body of water while Malaysia and Brunei claim some parts of the Spratly Islands.