Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Philippines Files Diplomatic Protest Vs China's 'provocative, Illegal Presence' In Ayungin Reef

The Philippine government has protested a 'provocative and illegal presence' of two Chinese surveillance vessels and a military ship within its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

Manila also called on Beijing to respect Manila’s sovereignty over its waters.

THe Philippines says two Chinese maritime surveillance ships and a warship have been spotted off Ayungin Shoal, which Manila says is within its territorial waters.

The Chinese ships appear to have accompanied some 30 fishing vessels from China, which are scattered around Ayungin Shoal, the Kalayaan Island Group and the Mischief Reef - a rich fishing ground within Philippine territory.

“On May 10, 2013, we  filed with the Chinese Embassy in Manila our protest on the provocative and illegal presence of the Chinese government ships around Ayungin Shoal,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said. “Ayungin Shoal is an integral part of our national territory.”

The shoal is located 105.77 nautical miles from Palawan and constitutes part of the country’s 200-nautical mile continental shelf as provided under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

UNCLOS is a 1982 accord by 163 countries that aims to govern the use of offshore areas and sets territorial limits of coastal states. The Philippines and China are both signatories to the treaty.

The Chinese fishing vessels continue to roam around the Philippine waters, Hernandez said.

It was not clear if the vessels are part of the Chinese flotilla of fishing crafts that were deployed early this month.

“We have already sent communications (to China) on this,” Hernandez said. “We have already told them our position regarding these vessels which have intruded into our exclusive economic zone. The resources in our EEZs are meant for the Filipino people.”

This is not the first time that China has been accused of encroaching in Philippine waters. China has stationed government vessels in the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, another Philippine-claimed feature in the West Philippine Sea where Manila and Beijing figured in a tense standoff last year. China has prevented Filipino fishermen from gaining access into the shoal's vast lagoon.

The South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), a strategic waterway where a bulk of the world's trade pass and believed to be rich in oil and natural gas, has been a source of conflict among competing claimants - the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, China and Taiwan. Analysts feared the competing claims could spark a military conflict in the region.

China claims the waters nearly in its entirety, citing historical entitlements as the basis for its huge claim, which Manila branded as “excessive and a violation of international law.”

The Philippines has challenged this claim before a United Nations tribunal, where a resolution is pending.-Interaksyon (May 21, 2013)

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