MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) called on China to respect the territorial sovereignty of the Philippines after Beijing sent its first patrol vessel to areas claimed by Manila.
“The Philippines strongly objects to Chinese patrols of Philippine maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea),” DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said in a statement on Friday, December 28.
Hernandez added that the presence of patrol vessels in disputed areas “will not validate the 9-Dash line [map] and is contrary to China’s obligations under international law,” including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
State-of-the-art patrol vessel
Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday that a state-of-the-art patrol boat equipped with helipad, the first of its kind in the region, had been dispatched to the South China Sea.
This was ahead of the new Sansha City administration-enforced rules to take effect on January 1.
In late November, China said it had granted its border patrol police the right to board and turn away foreign ships entering the disputed waters, raising fears of a confrontation.
Sansha’s jurisdiction covers part of the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
Local media in China also claimed this week that China plans to invest over US$1 billion to build an airport and other infrastructure on and around Sansha, the city which enforces Beijing’s policy over the South China Sea.
“This action of China will not gain validity for China,” Hernandez said on Wednesday.
China established Sansha City in June to govern all the areas it claims in the South China Sea under the controversial 9-Dash line map, not recognized by the Philippines and other claimant countries.
Both countries have overlapping claims over parts of the region, a major shipping route that is also believed to hold vast mineral resources, as well as oil and gas deposits.
Tensions between China and the Philippines have risen in the area since April after ships from both countries had a standoff over a rock outcropping known as the Scarborough Shoal.
While the Philippines has withdrawn its ships, it says China reneged on an agreement to pull out its own vessels.
China claims the shoal as well as nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries like Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam. – With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com