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Manila reiterates Philippine sovereignty rights over Recto Bank
Publication Date : 15-07-2014
Philippine Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Charles Jose reiterated the Philippines’ sovereignty rights over the Recto Bank (or Reed Bank), a huge oil rich table mount just off Palawan, as it countered a statement from Beijing last week staking claim on it.
“Recto Bank or Reed Bank is not an island, or a low tide elevation. Rather, it is a completely submerged bank that is a continental margin of Palawan… It forms part of the 200 nautical miles continental shelf of the Philippine archipelago under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea… and thus it has the exclusive sovereign rights over the Reed Bank,” Jose said on Monday.
Jose was reacting to a statement by Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei last week, saying China has “indisputable sovereignty” over Nansha islands and adjacent waters after a London-listed company was able to get the nod of the Philippine government to extend for one year a drilling plan for natural gas in the waters of Recto Bank, which China calls Liyue Bank.
Hong said gas explorations by foreign companies in waters under China, which had no permission from Beijing, were illegal and invalid.
At the same time, Jose said the government backed the call of the United States for a freeze on actions that could escalate tension in the South China Sea, which was the same call it made last June.
“It’s something we strongly support,” Jose said, in response to the call made by Michael Fuchs, US deputy assistant secretary of state for strategy and multilateral affairs, over the weekend.
Fuchs said Washington wanted China and rival countries to observe a voluntary freeze on actions in the South China Sea.
In a press briefing, Jose reminded reporters that Manila has made such proposal last June, referring to statements made by Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.
Del Rosario had earlier said Manila was keen on asking the help of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in seeking a moratorium on activities in the West Philippine Sea that would escalate tension there as he was expecting to see China more aggressively pushing for its expansion agenda in the disputed area.
He also said this should be done this year and that Manila was supporting the proposal of fellow Asean member, Indonesia, that the regional group meet soon to hold talks about tensions in the South China Sea.