MANILA, Philippines – Three days after China announced that it was set to publish a new official map of the South China Sea that will include areas claimed by the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is still waiting for more details before it lodges a protest.
“We just sent a communication to the [Philippine] Embassy in Beijing yesterday, [which was a] Sunday, so let’s wait and give them time to verify,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters on Monday, January 14.
Hernandez added that “hopefully we will be able to know the details of this map including the extent of its coverage before we comment more in detail.”
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday, January 11 that the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation had approved new national maps including for the first time the more than 130 islands and islets that Beijing claims in the South China Sea.
The maps have already been published but will only will be available to the public by the end of January.
According to the editor of the maps, the documents “will be very significant in enhancing Chinese people’s awareness of national territory, safeguarding China’s marine rights and interests and manifesting China’s political diplomatic stance.”
Business as usual
Asked about how the DFA will respond to the maps if they in fact include disputed areas, Hernandez stressed that the Philippines will stick to its policy of lodging formal protests.
“We have been protesting the inclusions and other illegal actions of China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) 15 times already,” he said.
If the new maps issued by Beijing warrant another protest, it will be the first this year.
The Philippines filed a record 15 protests in 2012, the year of the standoff at Scarborough Shoal, but all of the diplomatic communications were met with a certain disdain by Beijing.
Pressed by a reporter to say if China continues to “disregard” Philippine sovereignty, Hernandez said: “Well, you can say that, yes.”
The DFA spokesman insisted that “we have to file a protest so that they know and the world knows that we have not accepted whatever they have included in their map, and we have clearly stated that those areas are ours.”
“What is important is how the international community sees and accepts those maps,” he added.
PH preparing its own map
While China has already published its new map, the Philippines has yet to finalize its own, as requested in September 2012 by President Benigno Aquino III.
Aquino ordered the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria) to publish charts and maps covering areas “around, within, and adjacent to” the Spratlys (Kalayaan Island Group) and Scarborough Shoal, both claimed in full or in part by China.
The government also directed Namria to use the official name “West Philippine Sea.”
Asked about if the new maps will include the full 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Hernandez said on Monday that “all parts of our national territory will be included.”
“It is very clear that based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, we have the 200 nautical miles of EEZ and that area in the West Philippine Sea is clearly part of our national territory,” he stated.
Namria has already finalized the maps, now pending approval from the DFA and Malacañang. – Rappler.com