Philippines 'strongly' protests China declaration of 2 new districts in South China Sea

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 30 2020 05:10 PM

MANILA – The Philippines said Thursday it was "strongly" protesting China’s creation of 2 new districts in South China Sea, as it encompasses Philippine territory and maritime zones in the West Philippine Sea.

"The Philippine government strongly protests the establishment of the so-called districts of “Nansha” and “Xisha” under the supposed administrative jurisdiction of its self-declared “Sansha City” announced on 18 April 2020, by the People’s Republic of China," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.

“It does not recognize Sansha, nor its constituent units, nor any subsequent acts emanating from them," DFA added.

The DFA said that the creation of Sansha 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 in the West Philippine Sea.”

The Philippine government also objects and does not recognize the Chinese names given to some features in the Kalayaan Island Group. It also protests the illegal designation of Kagitingan Reef within the Kalayaan Island Group as administrative center of “Nansha” district.

The Philippine government earlier filed diplomatic protests against China on the issue, as well as over the pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in Philippine waters. 

The DFA invoked the arbitral win of the Philippines under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), saying it “has 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.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea and has been ignoring a July 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal invalidating its nine-dash line claim. 

On April 23, the United States accused China of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by “exerting military pressure and coercing its neighbors” in the South China Sea. 

In a statement, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo urged other nations to make China accountable as he enumerated recent incidents of the Asian power's “provocative behavior.”

This includes the establishment of administrative districts in the South China Sea, the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel, the establishment of “research stations” on Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef, deployment of maritime militia around the Spratly Islands and a flotilla to prevent other claimants from engaging in offshore hydrocarbon development. 

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has expressed support for the DFA’s move, accusing China of “exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic” in pursuing its illegal and expansive claims” in the South China Sea, “to the prejudice of Filipinos, the ASEAN states and the international community.

Del Rosario also urged Filipinos to remain vigilant “in the defense of our country’s territory and sovereign rights even as we confront a very grave threat as COVID-19.”

“As we struggle against a pandemic that poses a real threat to our lives, we must not also risk losing our national patrimony upheld by international law and meant for present and future generations of Filipinos,” del Rosario previously said. 

– With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News