China Violated 2002 ASEAN Declaration of Conduct by Constructing Posts in the Reedbank, Near Spratly Philippines

Reed Bank

West Philippines Sea

Province of Palawan, Philippines

 

Philippines: The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) summoned last Tuesday (May 31, 2011) the Chinese charge d’affaires to protest sightings of Chinese Navy vessels erecting posts at the West Philippine Sea.

Citing reports from the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the DFA requested clarification from Bai Tian, charge d’affaires of the Chinese embassy in Manila, regarding the recent sightings of a China Marine Surveillance vessel and other People‘s Liberation Army Navy ships in the vicinity of Iroquois Reef-Amy Douglas Bank in the West Philippine Sea.

“These ships reportedly unloaded building materials, erected an undetermined number of posts, and placed a buoy near the breaker of the Iroquois Bank,” the DFA said in a statement.

“The Iroquois Bank is located southwest of the Recto Bank (Reed Bank) and east of Patag Island (Flat Island) and is well within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone. There are currently no structures on the said bank and the latter is unoccupied,” the DFA added.

The DFA said the posts and buoy placed by the Chinese in the vicinity of Iroquois Bank are about 26 nautical miles east of Patag Island and 125 nautical miles from mainland Palawan.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said that “any new construction by China in the vicinity of the uninhabited Iroquois Bank is a clear violation of the 2002 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea.”

ASEAN members and China signed the DOC, a basic fundamental pillar of cooperation designed to reduce tensions, peacefully resolve claims over the South China Sea and improve the general political climate in the disputed islands.

A provision in the DOC states that “the parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”

The DFA Office of Asia and Pacific Affairs conveyed to Bai its serious concerns over recent actions of China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on May 31 and sought Beijing’s explanation on the incident.

The Chinese embassy said Chinese Ambassador Liu Jianchao was out of the country and would return in a few days.

The summoning of the Chinese embassy officials followed a meeting held last May 27, where the DFA also conveyed its concern to the Chinese over reports in Chinese state media about China’s planned installation of its most advanced oil rig in the South China Sea this coming July.

During the May 27 meeting, the DFA asked the Chinese embassy for the exact planned location of the mega oil rig and pointed out that it should not be placed in Philippine territory or its waters.

In both meetings, the Philippines and China reiterated their respective commitment to the maintenance of peace and stability in the area, and to work together to maintain good bilateral relations.

“The Philippines recognizes that critical to the peace and stability of the West Philippine Sea is the full and faithful implementation of the ASEAN-China DOC on the South China Sea. The Philippines also believes that it is in the best interest of all claimant countries and the region to transform the area into a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation through sustained consultations and dialogue,” the DFA said.

The Zone of Peace provides a framework for segregating the disputed territorial features, which may be considered for collaborative activities, from the non-disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea in accordance with international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“The Philippines is also committed to cooperating closely and actively with ASEAN and China in finding peaceful solutions to attain this goal,” the DFA said.

The STAR could not reach Sun Yi, Deputy Chief of Political Section and spokesman of the Chinese embassy, for comment.

China earlier said it was ready for an “accelerated” dialogue with the Philippines to end the dispute in the South China Sea but Beijing neither confirmed nor denied setting up military garrisons and outposts within Philippine-claimed territory in the Spratly Islands.

Sun Yi had earlier said that the Philippines and China agreed to an accelerated dialogue during discussions of Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie with Philippine officials when he visited Manila recently.

Although Sun did not confirm or deny the report about military garrisons and outposts set up by China within Philippine-claimed territory in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, he said Beijing upholds the DOC.

A senior foreign affairs official earlier said that lodging a diplomatic protest against China after its fighter jets reportedly buzzed two Philippine Air Force planes on a reconnaissance mission in the Kalayaan Island Group in the Spratlys was not yet “opportune“ since validation of the reported incident was still underway

 

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