Reactions from the Chinese towards the Filipino President’s signing of the baseline rule was fast and furious, prompting the Malacañang to reiterate on 16 March 2009 Monday that it would adhere to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct in the South China Sea and urged all parties to do the same in dealing with the dispute over the Spratly Islands.
To cool temperatures, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said the Philippines will resort to diplomacy means in facing the issue seeking help from the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
The Chinese government deployed a fishery patrol vessel to a disputed part of the Spratlys near Palawan.
This was the first show of armed strength in a long time. It was enough to spook the Filipino establishment who at first had thought the patrol vessel was a full-fledged warship.
It was enough to prompt at least one Senator Francis Escudero described China's move as "gunboat diplomacy".
This was clarified by the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy to Manila Hua Ye who reiterated that the ships were there to protect fishery resources and navigational priorities.
The 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) addresses the conflicting claims of several countries over the Spratlys.
What is at stake here is the largely uninhabited Spratlys and Paracel islands and surrounding waters are believed to have large oil/natural gas reserves and are located strategically in the busy sea lanes and are rich in fishing resources.
The Filipino move coincided with a tense stand-off between a naval survey ship operated by US contractors and Chinese patrol ships off Hainan when the former was attempted to measure the depth of the international waters around Hainan island.
Balagtas, Aie, "RP to stick to Asean-China pact on Spratlys – Palace" dated 16 March 2009 in the GMAnews website [downloaded on 16 March 2009], available at http://www.gmanews.tv/story/152898/RP-to-stick-to-Asean-China-pact-on-Sp...
Sisante, Johanna Camille, "China denies sending warship to contested islands" dated 16 March 2009 in the GMANews website [downloaded on 16 March 2009], available at http://www.gmanews.tv/story/152893/China-denies-sending-warship-to-conte...