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(Updated 5:14 p.m.) The Philippines on Thursday said it has lodged a protest against China’s establishment of a city called Sansha which covers a vast expanse of the South China Sea and clearly violated the Philippine sovereignty over its territorial waters and continental shelf.
A June 28 note verbale containing Manila’s diplomatic protest was handed personally to Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters in a press briefing Thursday.
“This note verbale protested on the establishment of Sansha City as the extent of the jurisdiction of the city violates Philippine territorial sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc and infringes on Philippine sovereign rights over the waters and continental shelf of the West Philippine Sea,” said Hernandez.
Beijing-based “Global Times” reported on June 25 that the creation of Sansha City was a new step for China to manage South China Seas.
“China's Ministry of Civil Affairs announced last week the establishment of Sansha city, which will administer Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands. The decision is more than just a response to Vietnam's maritime law, approved Thursday,” according to the report.
“China's actions concerning South China Sea disputes have been forced by Vietnam and the Philippines. Their provocations will meet with strong reactions from China, and push China to systematically strengthen related management.
“Technological breakthroughs in offshore drilling platforms and the new success of the Jiaolong submersible have demonstrated China's strength as a maritime power,” it added. Sansha prefecture
China claims the South China Sea nearly in its entirety, including areas that overlap with the Philippine territory and the cluster of islands reefs and atolls further south called the Spratlys.
Other claimants are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Except for Brunei, all claimants have stationed military troops in their territories in the vast sea said to be sitting atop huge oil and gas deposits,
The Kalayaan or Freedom in Filipino is a group of Philippine-claimed islands facing the South China Sea. The 37-hectare Pag-asa Island, equipped with an airstrip, commercial communications tower, and power generators, is the largest of these territories. Sansha has been elevated to prefecture-level that will administer “the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha island groups and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea,” according to Beijing. The government seat will be stationed on Yongxing Island, which is part of the Xisha Islands, a Ministry of Civil Affairs statement noted. The council has abolished a county-level administration office for the islands that was previously stationed on Yongxing Island.
China’s Sansha City also covers the disputed Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines, which has been at the center of a weeks-long territorial standoff between Manila and Beijing. PHL territory, maritime jurisdiction
Both the Kalayaan Islands and Bajo de Masinloc are within the Philippine 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Philippines, China and 162 other nations are signatories to this treaty.
“The declaration of the establishment of Sansha City contradicts the spirit of the conduct of parties in the South China Sea,” Hernandez said, referring to a non-binding code of conduct that calls on all claimants to stop new occupation and to avoid actions that will escalate tensions in the area.
“The Philippines reiterates in that note verbale that the KIG and Bajo de Masinloc and the waters and continental shelf around them form an integral part of the Philippine territory and maritime jurisdiction,” Hernandez said. — VS/ELR, News