DFA to act on China’s new incursions next week after getting more info
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is set to announce in the coming week its decided course of action on reported activities by Chinese vessels in the reefs within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the disputed Spratly Islands, even as authorities continued to confirm the nature of the reported incursions.
“Next week, we’ll have a statement on that,” DFA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said at a press briefing on Friday.
Jose was asked how soon the Philippines would act on the reported movements of Chinese vessels in Gavin Reef (Gaven Reef) and Calderon Reef (Cuarteron Reef) in the West Philippine Sea, part of the country’s 370-km EEZ within the disputed South China Sea.
“We’re still gathering information to establish what the Chinese are really doing (in the Gavin and Calderon reefs). [President] Aquino had said that the Chinese vessels seen there were capable of doing reclamation work. But before we can take further action, we have to be sure what exactly is being done,” he added.
Jose said the DFA and the Department of National Defense were working together to determine the course of action that the Philippines should take in the face of the newly reported Chinese encroachment.
For military activities
President Aquino had expressed concern over the report on Thursday, saying the sighted ships were similar to vessels that China had been using for its reclamation activities in the Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef), which the Philippines protested in April.
Jose said there had been no report indicating that China’s Mabini reclamation had stopped and that no new surveillance information had reached his office. The Philippines is concerned that China was creating an artificial island on the reef for military purposes.
The country has standing protests on Chinese incursions earlier reported in the Mabini Reef and Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) off Palawan province and the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) off Zambales province, where Chinese ships are known to “come and go.”
China’s patrols and apparent buildup in the Philippine-claimed territories continued amid Manila’s pursuit of an arbitration case against Beijing in the United Nations, a recourse under international law that China had repeatedly rejected.
The arbitral panel this week ordered China to respond to the Philippine case, which seeks to nullify China’s nine-dash claim covering some 90 percent of the South China Sea, halt incursions by Chinese vessels, and clarify maritime entitlements in the disputed waters.
China said it would not change its mind about shunning the legal process, and again asserted “indisputable sovereignty” over the territory.
Neighboring Vietnam, another claimant country in the South China Sea, has expressed its intent to also take legal action against China amid worsening encounters in the Paracel Islands, part of the waters being claimed by both sides.
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