May 10, 2012 / 1:47 AM / 8 years ago

Chinese travel agencies suspend trips to Philippines

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese travel agencies have suspended tourist packages to the Philippines and promised refunds to customers who have booked trips, Chinese state media reported Thursday, as tensions over disputed islands in the South China Sea escalated.

Companies including CTRIP.O and Beijing International Travel Service have halted all tours to the Philippines and say they will not accept bookings until the situation improves, Chinese media reported.

The Chinese embassy to the Philippines warned its citizens in Manila to stay off the streets during planned anti-China protests expected to take place on Friday.

The two countries are engaged in a standoff involving four Chinese maritime surveillance ships and eight Chinese fishing boats confronting a Filipino coast guard ship and several fishing boats in the waters near what is known as the Scarborough Shoal in English and Huangyan island in Chinese.

China has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan across the South China Sea, each searching for gas and oil while building up their navies and military alliances.

The Philippines and the United States staged war games on Wednesday, which China said would raise the risk of confrontation. Chinese vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai said China was committed to dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the dispute.

The Philippines foreign ministry said last week the United States will triple military aid to the Philippines in 2012.

Reporting by Pete Sweeney; Editing by Paul Tait

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