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The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest against China after its discovery of Beijing's massive land reclamation on the Manila-claimed Mischief Reef, saying such activity raises tensions in the area.
The Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday said Chinese embassy representatives were summoned to the DFA on Feb. 4 to receive a diplomatic note conveying Manila’s “strong protest” concerning China’s latest activity at the reef, called Panganiban in Filipino.
China’s expansion moves in the reef seems to show its resolve to assert claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, while ignoring calls from several countries, like the United States and Japan, against raising tensions in the area.
Beijing is also undertaking land reclamation on six other disputed areas in an area of the South China Sea, called the Spratlys.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose, at a press briefing, insisted that Mischief Reef, a rich fishing ground within Philippine territory that came under Chinese control in 1995, “is a low tide elevation in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and on its continental shelf.”
Citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, Jose said only the Philippines has the “exclusive right to authorize construction of artificial islands, installations or other structures in the vicinity of Panganiban Reef.”
He called China’s reclamation activities a “flagrant violation of these rights.”
“We strongly urge China to desist from its reclamation activities in the Panganiban Reef, to respect international law, specifically the UNCLOS and its disputes settlement mechanisms,” Jose said.
Manila also called on China “to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities” pursuant to a 2002 non-aggression pact it signed with Southeast Asian nations on the South China Sea disputes.
The accord calls on all claimants to stop new occupation of territories in the South China Sea. However, the document lacks the power to sanction states that will violate its provisions,.
China, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia lay claim on parts or virtually the entire contested region, islands and reefs, where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.
Beijing objects to third-party intervention to the disputes, particularly the involvement of the US, which declared that it is in its national interest to ensure unfettered access to the waters and peaceful resolution of the row.
China prefers to negotiate one on one with other claimants, which would give it advantage because of its sheer size compared to rival claimants which are smaller and have less military force.
It is also pushing for the shelving of disputes and for joint development in the strategic waters pending a final resolution of the claims.
The Philippines challenged China’s massive claim before an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where a resolution is pending. —NB, GMA News