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Philippines to raise China reclamation in talks

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Thursday, March 30, said it will raise China's reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) when the two countries begin one-on-one talks in May. 

Referring to China's artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said on ANC's Headstart, "I think this will simply be one of the issues that we will ask China: 'What is the intention of building this?'"

"We made it perfectly clear that we want to raise issues of concern to our side," Manalo added.

He also said that the Philippines will mention these developments as happening within the Philippines' 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), within which it has the exclusive rights to explore and exploit marine resources.

"I can't divulge exactly how we'll say it, but we will be pointing out that these are constructions taking place on islands within our EEZ," Manalo said. 

This comes after the Philippines on Monday, March 27, said Manila and Beijing will hold in May "the first meeting of the bilateral mechanism set up to properly handle" the sea dispute.

'We take it very seriously'

On the same day, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said that China is about to finish building military and dual-use facilities on Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

"Beijing can now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers, to the Spratly Islands at any time," the AMTI reported on Monday.

Referring to the AMTI report, Manalo said, "We take it very seriously, but I think when they say that this could accommodate this and that, that's something that we will have to verify with China."

The planned bilateral talks in May also come nearly a year after the Philippines won a historic case against China over the West Philippine Sea. 

In this legal victory in July 2016, an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, struck down the 9-dash line that China uses to claim the disputed waters. 

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he will not "raise hell" about the ruling for now, but "there will come a time" to confront China about it. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. 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.

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