PH helpless in stopping China’s reclamation work in disputed seas
MANILA, Philippines—Several months after China was first found to be conducting reclamation activities in a reef in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines has been helpless in stopping the Asian giant from doing nearly all it wants in the disputed region.
The latest of China’s reclamation projects is on Fiery Cross Reef, which China calls Yongshu and the Philippines calls Kagitingan. The normally submerged reef has been turned into a 3,000 meter long and 200 to 300 meter wide artificial island.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario previously said that a diplomatic protest has been filed last October 10 for this latest reclamation activity.
China is known to be conducting reclamation activities in at least five reefs, Johnson South reef, Cuarteron reef, McKennan-Hughes reef, Gaven Reef, and the latest is Fiery Cross reef.
The reclamation work on Johnson South Reef, also known as Mabini Reef to the Philippines, was made public by the DFA last May 15, 2014 through a series of photographs showing the progress of the reclamation.
More reclamation activities were discovered the following months, and the Philippines has filed diplomatic protests for each but these were consistently ignored by China.
DFA spokesman Charles Jose told reporters Wednesday that they are no longer counting the number of diplomatic protests they have filed against China for their reclamation activities.
“There is no response. Sometimes they just received it then they reject the protest, because [they say] ‘this is our territory.’ It’s not always that they reply back in writing,” Jose said.
The Philippines has previously proposed a “triple-action plan (TAP)” before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in order to diffuse tensions caused by the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
Among the components of the TAP is the moratorium of all activities in the region including reclamation.
China however continues to reclaim reefs in the region, which are seen as moves to establish military bases. Filipino fishermen have also claimed they were prevented from fishing in the disputed waters by Chinese ships through the use of force.
An arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) filed by the Philippines is still ongoing. China has consistently refused to participate in the proceedings insisting on bilateral talks.