Expresses hope that Philippines will manage South China Sea maritime disputes properly
Manila: China has called for more details and clarifications after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to militarily occupy with structures and Philippine flags all vacant rocks, reefs, and shoals located within his country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
“Having noted the report, the Chinese side is concerned about it. We hope the Philippine side will continue to properly manage maritime disputes with China and work with us to maintain the sound and steady growth of China-Philippines relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement posted in the website of Beijing’s Foreign Ministry.
“The Chinese side is committed to defending its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, and safeguarding peace and stability there,” said Hua, adding that Beijing and Manila should maintain warm bilateral ties.
Hua added that tension in the South China Sea has eased, the situation there “getting better,” and this “has not come easily and deserves to be cherished and preserved by all parties (involved in the maritime dispute)”.
Last Thursday, Duterte said, “We have to maintain our jurisdiction over South China Sea.”
after he ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to claim rocks, reefs, and shoals within its EEZ with structures.
He ordered Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to repair in May the runway of the eight-island Pagasa chain that the Philippines has claimed in the Spratly Archipelago off the South China Sea. He promised to lead a flag-raising ceremony there on June 12, the country’s Independence Day.
In May, Duterte will be meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the summit of China’s $3-trillion “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure project that would strengthen trade between t Asia and Europe. Duterte and Xi will also hold bilateral talks on possible joint projects in the South China Sea, sources said.
During a state visit in Beijing in October 2016, Duterte’s bilateral talks with China helped implement one of the rulings of The Hague-based Permanent Court Arbitration (in July 2016), that China should allow fishermen of claimant countries to fish at the Scarborough Shoal, 124km west of Zambales Provinces. China had occupied the shoal after a standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels in 2012.
Since then, Filipino fishermen were allowed at the Scarborough Shoal. Last month, China insisted it has no plan to build structures and a monitoring system on the Scarborough Shoal — despite an earlier contrary statement by a Chinese sub-official.
Hague’s PCA also ruled that China’s entire claim of the South China Sea, and its enhancement of small reefs and islands into artificial islands there were illegal. Three of the seven enhanced reefs and shoals are located within Philippines’ 200-nautical mile EEZ in the South China Sea — a provision of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the whole of the South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines claim their respective exclusive economic zones on the disputed sea-lane. All claimant countries have occupied militarily their respective territories in the Spratly Archipelago off the South China Sea since the late 60s.