PH alarmed as China soon completes island building

Paterno Esmaquel II
PH alarmed as China soon completes island building
'We continue to urge China to desist from its reclamation and planned construction activities,' the Philippines says

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines urged China on Wednesday, June 17, to “desist” from its reclamation activities in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) after Beijing said it is set to finish its island building.  

“We reiterate our serious concern over China’s massive reclamation activities and planned construction of facilities in those features,” Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose said in a media briefing. 

Jose said these activities “are purely intended to change the character and the status of features in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea,” and to prejudice the Philippines’ arbitration case against China. 

“Regardless of the objectives of China’s reclamation and construction activities, the fact remains that these contravene the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea,” Jose added.

Signed in 2002, the DOC says claimant countries should avoid disrupting the status quo and raising tensions in the South China Sea. 

Paragraph 5 of the DOC says parties, including the Philippines and China, “undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

Jose also urged China to heed the so-called Constitution for the Oceans, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 

The Philippines cited violations of the UNCLOS in its historic case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague, The Netherlands. (READ: Philippines to present China sea case at Hague in July)

China: Reclamation ‘beyond reproach’

Jose said on Wednesday: “We continue to urge China to desist from its reclamation and planned construction activities, to respect international law, specifically UNCLOS, and to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities pursuant to Paragraph 5 of the DOC.”

The Philippines issued this statement after China on Tuesday, June 16, said its reclamation activities in the South China Sea “will be completed in the coming days.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang explained: “Apart from satisfying the need of necessary military defense, the main purpose of China’s construction activities is to meet various civilian demands and better perform China’s international obligations and responsibilities in the areas such as maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, marine scientific research, meteorological observation, ecological environment conservation, navigation safety, as well as fishery production service.”

Lu added that after the reclamation activities, China “will start the building of facilities to meet relevant functional requirements.”

Defending China’s island building, Lu added that the construction activities “fall within the scope of China’s sovereignty, and are lawful, reasonable and justified.”

He said: “They are not targeted at any other country, do not affect the freedom of navigation and overflight enjoyed by all countries in accordance with international law in the South China Sea, nor have they caused or will they cause damage to the marine ecological system and environment in the South China Sea, and are thus beyond reproach.”

The Philippines previously said that aside from violating international law, China is destroying the environment through its reclamation activities. The Philippines’ fisheries bureau said China’s reclamation activities have buried more than 300 hectares of coral reefs. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.