PHL mulls protest vs China for new incursions, says DFA Chief

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, June 5 (PNA) -– A diplomatic protest will be filed by the Philippines against China once its construction activities in two Manila-claimed reefs in the South China Sea have been confirmed, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Thursday.

President Benigno S. Aquino disclosed that an unspecified number of Chinese vessels were spotted on Gaven and Calderon Reefs, leading to speculations that China will also reclaim the areas like what it did to another Philippine-claimed feature, the Mabini Reef.

The two reefs, Philippine officials said, are part of Philippine territory.

A portion of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ territorial limits have been renamed West Philippine Sea by the Philippine government.

“Right now, we aren’t sure and we are taking a good look. If in fact it’s clear to us that the status quo is being changed then we will take a look at a formal protest,” Del Rosario told reporters.

Del Rosario said the Philippines has no confirmation if the Chinese vessels are shipping construction materials to the reef, but said their mere presence in the area is a cause for concern.

“It’s concerning because it would be in the same manner as Mabini in terms of violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea because you are effectively changing the status quo and you are raising tension,” he said.

“If we were able to come up with a picture of what they intend to do there and if it is what they’re doing in Mabini you can be sure that we will protest,” he added.

China does not recognize the claims of the Philippines and other claimants in the South China Sea like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, insisting its ownership of the resource-rich waters is “indisputable.”

Manila called Chinese actions in the South China Sea a violation of a South China Sea declaration that calls on all claimants to exercise restraint, refrain from undertaking construction activities and stop new occupation of features. China is a signatory to the accord. (PNA)