DFA to China: Remove illegal structures, cease reclamations
MANILA, Philippines – Refusing to bow down to China’s demands, the Philippines instead asked Beijing to remove its illegal structures in the West Philippine Sea.
On Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued a strongly worded statement against China in response to the latter’s latest incursion in the West Philippine Sea.
“We call on China to remove all these illegal structures, cease reclamations in the South China Sea, and be accountable for the damages caused by these illegal activities,” said DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza, pertaining to China’s structures in Panganiban Reef, internationally known as Mischief Reef.
Daza noted that Panganiban Reef is now a militarized artificial island due to China’s actions.
Despite China’s aggression, Daza maintained that Ayungin Shoal is within the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines.
“We are being asked to give prior notification each time we conduct a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal. We will not do so,” said Daza.
“The resupply missions are legitimate activities within our exclusive economic zone, in accordance with international law,” she went on.
Beijing earlier accused the Philippines of entering Ayungin Shoal “without China’s permission.”
“The Philippines has not entered into any agreement abandoning its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, including in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal,” she stressed.
According to Daza, China cannot lawfully exercise sovereignty over Ayungin Shoal as it is “clearly beyond the 200 nautical miles maximum maritime entitlement for an exclusive economic zone under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
Following China’s November 10 aggression in Philippine waters, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin urged the Philippines to “immediately stop making maritime provocations and tow away” BRP Sierra Madre stationed in Ayungin Shoal.
Wang said the Philippines’ move to “repair the vessel [is] an attempt to permanently occupy” Ayungin Shoal, which according to him violates international law.
But Daza countered this, saying it is difficult to imagine how these activities could be deemed threatening to China.
“The BRP Sierra Madre is a commissioned Philippine naval vessel permanently stationed in Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as a constant Philippine government presence in response to China’s illegal occupation in 1995 of Panganiban Reef, also known as Mischief Reef,” said Daza.