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Philippines detects fresh movement of Chinese ships in Spratlys
Publication Date : 05-06-2014
Movement of Chinese ships has been monitored near two reefs in the Spratly Islands, sparking concerns from Philippine officials that China might be planning to conduct further reclamation projects.
“Were taking a good look as to what’s happening there. We aren’t certain but we know there’s some movements there,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters after President Benigno Aquino disclosed an intelligence report on the developments in the disputed area.
“If it’s clear to us that the status quo there has been changed, then we will take a look at a formal protest. Right now we aren’t sure and we are taking a good look, these are Gavin reef and Calderon reef,” del Rosario said.
He however clarified that he could not yet determine how many ships there are and what their purpose could be.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) previously released a series of aerial photographs showing China’s reclamation project on Mabini reef. Philippines filed a protest against the reclamation.
“It’s concerning because it would be in the same manner as Mabini in terms of violation of the Declaration of Conduct, because you are effectively changing the status quo and you are raising the tensions in the region,” del Rosario said.
China claims the entire South China Sea as part of its territory including part of the Philippines 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Philippines has challenged China’s claim of “indisputable sovereignty” over the entire region by filing an arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
China has maintained its stance that it will not participate in the proceedings even when it has been ordered to submit its counter memorial by December 15, 2014.
“If China refuses to participate, I don’t think that’s relevant as far as the outcome is concerned because the case will proceed with or without China and an award will be handed down which hopefully will be final and unappealable,” del Rosario said.
Meanwhile, Philippine President Aquino said he was hoping for the resolution of the arbitration case filed before the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos) amid China’s refusal to participate in the proceedings.
“So at the very least, we will be able to prove, if they rule in our favour, that our claims are correct. We will be able to clarify the rights and responsibilities of each state," he said, adding that he could not force China to participate.
Nevertheless, Aquino hopes China will change its mind, especially since it says it is a responsible member of the international community.