Filipino, Vietnamese troops to hold sports showdown on Spratlys


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A building on an island in the Spratly archipelago that belongs to Vietnam.
Filipino and Vietnamese troops will engage in a light-hearted round of sports diplomacy on islands in the Spratly archipelago, the Philippines said Thursday.
Basketball, beach volleyball and tug-of-war games will be held this weekend on tiny islands that are claimed by nations to show that rivals can still be friends, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said.
"This is camaraderie. That is a friendly gesture," del Rosario told reporters.
The games will be held in the Spratly archipelago, a powder keg area of the South China Sea that is coveted by the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
China claims nearly all of the sea, which is also believed to contain vast deposits of oil and gas, even waters approaching the coasts of its neighbors.
The Philippines and Vietnam have voiced growing alarm in recent years at what they perceive as China's bullying tactics in staking its claims to the sea.
This weekend's planned sports are intended to continue fostering a warmer relationship.
The games will be a tiny affair, with only a small number of soldiers taking part, according to Lieutenant General Roy Deveraturda, head of the Philippines' western military command that has responsibility for the Spratlys.
But he said they would see Filipino soldiers cross over to a Vietnamese-held island for day one of the games, with the Philippines to host Sunday's events.

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