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China lighthouse on Subi reef threatens peace–PH

CHINESE LIGHT China opens its lighthouse on Zamora (Subi) Reef on Tuesday. AP/XINHUA

CHINESE LIGHT China opens its lighthouse on Zamora (Subi) Reef on Tuesday. AP/XINHUA

SAN FERNANDO CITY—The Philippines on Thursday slammed China for operating a lighthouse on Zamora (Subi) Reef in the Spratly archipelago, charging that Beijing’s move undermines peace and stability in the region.

Zamora Reef is claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam, but controlled by China, which built an artificial island there and on six other reefs in the Spratlys to bolster its claim to almost all of the South China Sea.

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On Tuesday, China switched on a 55-meter-high lighthouse that it had built on Zamora Reef to monitor passing ships.

“The Philippines is opposed to all [of] these actions of China. China’s actions are in violation of the 2002 Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” Charles Jose, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said on Thursday after briefing reporters here on the South China Sea dispute.

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Nine-dash-line claim

“China’s actions in the South China Sea are its efforts to enforce and assert its claim and to realize its nine-dash-line claim,” Jose said.

“Nine-dash line” refers to China’s sweeping claims to territory in the South China Sea, demarcated by nine dashes on new Chinese maps.

China insists it has “undisputed sovereignty” over those waters despite conflicting claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

About $5 trillion in global trade passes through the South China Sea every year.

In the Spratlys, islets, reefs and atolls are believed to be sitting atop vast deposits of oil and natural gas.

Declaration of conduct

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According to Jose, the Asean-China declaration compels all parties to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate the territorial disputes.

The declaration also requires the claimants to refrain from inhabiting the unpopulated islands, reefs, shoals and cays in the disputed waters and to handle their differences in a constructive manner, he said.

But China has continued to build artificial islands in the region, drawing condemnation from the other claimants and the United States, he said.

The Philippines, he said, is calling on China “to refrain from taking further actions that would escalate the tensions … in the South China Sea.”

“But we also continue our effort to find a peaceful and rules-based resolution [to] the overlapping maritime claims in the South China Sea,” he said.

The Philippines has asked the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to invalidate China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea.

China has refused to take part in the arbitration, but the court has proceeded to hear the case and is expected to hand down a ruling in coming weeks.

For business use

Beijing on Tuesday claimed the lighthouse on Zamora Reef was for business purposes and would serve all countries within and outside the region.

“The Chinese side has been working to provide more public goods and services for navigation in the South China Sea to ensure and facilitate the freedom and safety of navigation in the region,” Lu Kang, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

Construction of the lighthouse began in October and was completed on Tuesday, according to the Chinese official news agency Xinhua.

Militarization

Xinhua reported last year that China would also build lighthouses on Calderon (Cuarteron) and Mabini (Johnson South) Reefs, both also claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam.

The United States accuses China of militarizing the region by building artificial islands on reefs there and setting up military facilities and deploying weapons on them.

Challenging China’s sweeping claims, the United States, invoking freedom of navigation, last year sent the USS Lassen to sail past Zamora Reef, angering Beijing.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will visit the Philippines next week to meet with Filipino security officials for discussion of increasing US military presence in the disputed waters. With a report from Estrella Torres in Manila

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TAGS: Features, Global Nation, Subi Reef, West Philippine Sea
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