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Philippine minister tells cadets 'protect what is ours'
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Nov 24, 2012


Foreign minister Albert del Rosario has told the Philippines future military top brass to "stand up to protect what is ours" amid a territorial dispute with China, the government said Saturday.

He told Philippine Military Academy cadets on Friday that their country included parts of the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea, as well as the Scarborough Shoal off the main Philippine island of Luzon.

China claims the Spratlys and the shoal as well as nearly all of the South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of its neighbours.

"We have a clear mandate from our president. What is ours is ours and we should stand up to protect what is ours," the country's top diplomat said, according to a foreign department statement.

"Live up to your living commitment of courage, integrity and loyalty. By doing so, rather than being forced to accept that might is right, we will instead demonstrate that right is might."

The school, in the northern city of Baguio, produces most of the country's military officers.

Del Rosario told how the country's navy and coastguard got embroiled in a stand-off in April with Chinese patrol vessels that prevented the arrest of Chinese at the Scarborough Shoal.

Philippine officials say the area is part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Del Rosario told the cadets China still has three ships around the shoal. Philippine President Benigno Aquino renewed his calls at a regional summit in Cambodia last weekend for China to withdraw the vessels.

The Philippines pulled its last vessels out of the area in June, but said China failed to reciprocate.

Del Rosario said that "the territorial issues cannot be solved overnight. However, if the Chinese ships were to be pulled out, this could create the impetus for a way forward".

China and the Philippines, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, have overlapping claims in the Spratlys, which lie close to major shipping lanes and are believed to be rich in mineral and oil resources.

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