West Philippine Sea

China protests PH’s extended continental shelf claim in West Philippine Sea

Bea Cupin

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China protests PH’s extended continental shelf claim in West Philippine Sea

PH SOVEREIGNTY. A Philippine Coast Guard ship patrols the shores of Pag-asa Island in Palawan on May 16, 2024.

Mark Cristino/Rappler

China tells a UN body that it enjoys 'sovereign rights and jurisdiction' over the Palawan-Mindoro Microcontinent

MANILA, Philippines – Beijing on Tuesday, June 18 (in New York) filed its opposition to the Philippines’ claim of an extended continental shelf (ECS) west of Palawan before the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).

“China has indisputable sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao and the adjacent waters, and enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters as well as the seabed and subsoil thereof. The above positions held by the Chinese Government are consistent and clear, and are known by the international community, including the Government of the Philippines,” said China in a note verbale sent to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“Nanhai Zhudao” translates into “the South China Sea Islands,” and covers several island groups in the South China Sea, including those claimed by the Philippines and other countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

China claims a huge part of the South China Sea as its own and rejects a 2016 Arbitral Ruling, which affirmed the extent of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and deemed China’s sweeping claim and invalid.

“The continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles as contained in the aforementioned Submission by the Philippines has seriously infringed China’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea. In accordance with Article 5(a) of Annex I to the Rules of Procedure of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the Chinese Government seriously requests the Commission not to consider the Submission by the Philippines,” Beijing added.

In its newest filing on June 14 (in New York) before the CLCS, the Philippines, on the basis of “hydrographic, geological, geophysical and tectonic data and information” in the West Palawan Region in the West Philippine Sea, pointed out the existence of a Palawan-Mindoro Microcontinent, which is a “distinct geological and geomorphological unit which includes, among others, the Palawan mainland and Kalayaan Island Group.”

This marked the second submission of the Philippines on an ECS entitlement. The first submission was in 2009 related to Philippine Rise, then called Benham Rise, an area off Aurora province that’s bigger than Luzon. In 2012, the UN body confirmed that it’s part of the Philippines’ continental shelf and territory.

Another area this time

The Kalayaan Island Group is the farthest island territory of the Philippines on the west and is located beyond its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone. Pag-asa Island, where a civilian population lives, is part of the Kalayaan Island Group.

“The Palawan-Mindoro Microcontinent serves as the basis for the determination of the natural prolongation of the Palawan and Mindoro landmasses,” reads the executive summary of the Philippines’ filing.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a coastal state has sovereign rights over its continental shelf, or the exclusive right to exploit and explore its natural resources.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Maritime and Ocean Affairs Marshall Louis Alferez have said that the submission “does not prejudice discussions with relevant coastal states that may have legitimate ECS claims measured from their respective lawful baselines under UNCLOS” and only seeks to “puts on record the maximum extent of [the Philippines’] entitlement.”

Tensions between the Philippines and China have risen in the past year over disputes in the West Philippine Sea, or part of the South China Sea that includes the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Since Beijing claims a huge part of the South China Sea as its own, Philippine missions to features in the West Philippine Sea have been tense, even violent.

Over the weekend, a military resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea led to the injury of a Filipino soldier, as the China Coast Guard rammed the Philippine boats, with Chinese personnel brandishing knives and bladed weapons, using tear gas, and sirens right below the BRP Sierra Madre, an old warship that serves as a Filipino military outpost in the area. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.