PH protests China’s ‘overwhelming presence’ in disputed waters
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines protested the Chinese “sovereignty patrols” in Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea and the “emerging pattern of overwhelming presence” in the South China Sea.
“We are protesting the conduct of sovereignty patrols by Chinese vessels on Recto Bank. The frequent passage of Chinese vessels in Recto Bank is not an innocent exercise of freedom of navigation, but is actually done as part of a pattern of illegitimate sovereignty patrols in the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose said Monday
“If they say they are just passing through and exercising their freedom of navigation, there is an abuse of that right when they already have a constant and overwhelming presence,” he said.
Sovereignty patrols means their ships are moving around but still have a constant presence in the disputed waters. Jose said this was a unilateral move on China’s part to change the status quo in the South China Sea.
China claims the entire South China Sea, including portions of the West Philippine Sea, as part of its territory.
President Benigno Aquino III in a televised interview last week disclosed that Chinese ships have been spotted in Recto Bank about 144 km from Palawan within the Philippines 370 km exclusive economic zone.
“What are they doing there? What studies are they conducting? I hope [their presence] will not lead to increased tension between [the Philippines and China],” Aquino said in his interview.
Recto Bank is believed to be rich in oil and gas resources.
Jose said that the Chinese sovereignty patrols violate the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea.
“We would like to reiterate our position that Recto Bank is not an island, rock, or low tide elevation. Recto Bank is a completely submerged bank that is part of the continental margin of Palawan,” Jose said.
“Accordingly Recto Bank is about 85 nautical miles from the nearest coast of Palawan and about 595 nautical miles from the coast of Hainan, China. In accordance with UNCLOS, Philippines has exclusive sovereignty rights over Recto Bank and no other state is lawfully entitled to assert sovereignty or sovereign rights over the area,” he said.
Jose cited the previous incidents in Ayungin Shoal where four to five Chinese Coast Guard Ships have been seen patrolling the area.
Originally posted: 2:55 pm | Monday, August 18th, 2014
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