China altering Mabini reef features to foil PH's claim, says DFA | Global News

China altering Mabini reef features to foil PH’s claim, says DFA

By: - NewsLab Lead / @MSantosINQ
/ 03:49 PM May 16, 2014

The DFA released photos Thursday of the Mabini Reef showing China’s reclamation activities on the disputed area. DFA

MANILA, Philippine—China is changing the physical feature of Mabini reef (Johnson Reef) in a bid  to “jeopardize” the Philippine’s arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

“What they are doing is jeopardizing our case, they are changing the nature and character of that maritime feature, a rock to something else,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose said in an press conference Friday.

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The DFA previously released photos showing the extensive reclamation being done on Mabini reef, which is some 180 nautical miles from Palawan in the Kalayaan Island Group.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) classifies three different types of maritime features: islands, rocks or reefs, and low-tide elevations.

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Islands are defined as “a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water and above water at high tide,” according to Philippine Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said in a previous press conference.

These are entitled to 12 nautical miles (nm) of territorial sea and 200 nm of exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Rocks or reefs are features that are mostly below water but can have rocky protrusions above water during high tide. These are entitled to only 12 nm territorial sea and no EEZ.

Low-tide elevations do not have any maritime entitlements.

Johnson reef is among the disputed maritime features that the Philippine included in its case submitted to the arbitration tribunal.

The Philippines argues that Johnson reef, being a rock, can only have 12 nm. Scarborough Shoal (Panatag shoal), Cuarteron reef, and Fiery Cross reef are similar maritime features included in the case.

“If you will change the physical nature of that from a rock to an island, it will affect our case,” Jose said.

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There is a possibility that China will become entitled to a 200 nautical mile EEZ if they change the nature of the Mabini reef into an island and create a “hole” on the Philippines EEZ, Jose said.

“We don’t want anything changed,” he said.

RELATED STORIES

Manila says China reclaiming land in disputed sea

DFA releases photo of Chinas reclamation on disputed reef

 

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TAGS: China, DFA, International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, ITLOS, Mabini Reef, Philippines, territorial dispute
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