The Philippines on Thursday said it "strongly protests" China's unilateral establishment of two administrative zones in the disputed South China Sea, calling it "illegal" and an infringement on Manila's sovereignty.
China announced on April 18 that its so-called districts of “Nansha” and “Xisha" will have authority over the Spratlys and the Paracels, respectively, under the authority of the local government in Sansha, a city in the southern island of Hainan.
Beijing also gave Chinese names to the features in the disputed waters - a move rejected by Manila.
"The Philippine government has protested since 2012 China’s unlawful establishment of Sansha City and the extent of its administrative jurisdiction, which encompasses Philippine territory and maritime zones in the West Philippine Sea.It does not recognize Sansha, nor its constituent units, nor any subsequent acts emanating from them," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement a week after filing a diplomatic protest on China's action.
"The Philippines protests as well the illegal designation of Kagitingan Reef within the KIG as administrative center for the so-called “Nansha district.” Kagitingan Reef is within the Kalayaan Island Group and is thus an integral part of Philippine territory," it added.
Manila also said that it "objects to and does not recognize the Chinese names given to some features in the Kalayaan Island Group."
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan are locked in decades- long territorial conflict in the South China Sea, where oil and gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.
China claims a huge swathe of the South China Sea as part of its territory, but the Permanent Court of Arbitration tribunal in The Hague invalidated this claim in July 12, 2016 following a case filed by the Philippines in 2013.
Beijing has ignored and belittled the ruling, maintaining it has "indisputable" and "historical" claim over nearly the entire waters even as it encroaches on the territories of its smaller neighbors like the Philippines.
China has also claimed and developed some features in parts of the South China Sea, called West Philippine Sea by Manila.
China's recent move to bring all its claimed territories under the control of two districts was a way of reinforcing their nine-dash line claim, which is considered excessive and a violation of international law.
Beijing's so-called nine-dash line is a U-shaped map that covers nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea.
"The establishment and supposed extent of jurisdiction of 'Sansha City' of which the new two districts are part, violate Philippine territorial sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), and infringes on Philippine sovereign rights over the waters and continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea," the DFA said.
Citing the arbitral decision, the DFA reminded Beijing that the tribunal has already "comprehensively addressed China’s excessive claims and illegal actions in the South China Sea."
"The Philippines calls on China to adhere to international law, including the UNCLOS, as well as to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, specifically Paragraph 5 thereof, under which parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability," the DFA said. — RSJ, GMA News