MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines opposed yesterday a new Chinese law empowering the military to stop incursions into self-declared restricted waters and reiterated its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose said the Philippines will complete assessment of the latest Chinese action as soon as possible.
“We are still studying the new law and its possible implications,” he said.
Security and defense analyst Rommel Banlaoi said China is rushing reclamation of occupied reefs to bolster its claim over the entire West Philippine Sea.
“China is rushing to have total control over these areas for the much-needed semblance of ownership before the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea is finally passed,” he said.
China wanted to have full control ahead of the passage of the Code of Conduct being pushed by claimant-countries as well as other states including the US, he added.
Banlaoi said once China gets full de facto control over these areas, it can declare before the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that it has all the right to stay. When this happens, China can use the permanent presence to challenge the maritime claim of other states invoking a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Philippines and Vietnam, with US backing, are pushing for the early passage of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to discourage China from advancing its excessive claim to almost the entire region, Banlaoi said.
The military has enhanced its air and maritime territorial monitoring over the West Philippine Sea following the recent discovery of China’s reclamation activities at Calderon (Cuarteron), Gaven and Mabini (South Johnson) reefs.
All these Chinese reclamations are located well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile EEZ.
The DFA has already filed a diplomatic protest, but China simply dismissed it as being without basis.
Defense and military officials described the reclamation on these reefs as alarming.
China is planning to build its forward naval bases and airfields on the artificial islands being put up.
Up north in the Paracels, Vietnam and China are engaged in a tense maritime row.
China has set up a massive oil rig in waters located well within Vietnam’s 200-nautical mile EEZ.
Last week, China announced that the new law will take effect next month. – Pia Lee-Brago, Jaime Laude