Philippines runs to UN to protest China’s ‘9-dash line’ Spratlys claim

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Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The protest was rather late and came a week after three Filipinos were executed in China for drug trafficking.

The department of foreign affairs Thursday (April 14) confirmed reports that the country had filed a formal protest in the United Nations over China’s so-called “nine-dash line” territorial claim over the entire South China Sea.

China has been using the map with nine dashes in asserting its territorial claim over the entire area, including the Spratly group of islands which is believed to sit on vast mineral resources.

Aside from China, Malaysia, Viet Nam and the Philippines, the Spratlys are being claimed wholly or in part by Brunei and Taiwan.

Assistant foreign secretary J. Eduardo Malaya, also DFA spokesperson, said the Philippine government had “filed a note (verbale) with the UN expressing its position on the nine-dotted line” issue.

Reports reaching the DFA said the Philippine protest, dated April 5, was posted three days later by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLOS).

A copy of the protest sent by the Philippines to the UN on April 5 and seen by Agence France-Presse on Thursday said the Chinese notes were in reaction to Viet Nam and Malaysia’s own letters to the UN outlining their rival claims.

Integral part

The protest said the Philippine-claimed section of the Spratlys, which Manila calls the Kalayaan island group, was an integral part of the Philippines.

“The claim (by China)... outside of the aforementioned geological features of the (Kalayaan island group) and their ‘adjacent waters’ would have no basis under international law, specifically UNCLOS," it said.

The protest came nearly two years after two of its neighbours, Malaysia and Viet Nam, filed similar protests over the same issue.

Last year, Indonesia registered its protest even if it did not have a claim on the South China Sea.

PH vessel harassed

Manila last month complained that Chinese patrol boats inappropriately harassed a Philippine oil exploration vessel in disputed waters near the Spratlys.

The Philippines later announced plans to pursue oil exploration in the South China Sea and to upgrade a military airfield on Pagasa island.

Closer to PH land

Pagasa is the largest of the seven Spratly islands that the Philippines occupies. The Philippines claims more than 50 islands in the archipelago.

Much of the disputed areas and adjacent waters being exclusively claimed by China is closer to Philippine than Chinese land.

The Inquirer Thursday tried but failed to reach the Chinese embassy in Makati City for comment on Manila’s diplomatic protest.

Open to discussion

Early this month, Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao said Beijing was open to discussing the conflict over the Spratlys and other bilateral issues during President Benigno Aquino III’s upcoming state visit to Beijing.

Noting relations between China and the Philippines were becoming “more and more mature”, Liu said they were “open for dialogue, conversation and we’ll be very happy to discuss with the Philippine government and the President issues that both sides are interested in”.

During a diplomatic reception hosted by designated foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, Liu told reporters that “everything can be talked about."

Well-measured settlement

He expressed confidence the talks would be held in “a very broad-based (spirit of) goodwill and in the spirit of seeking a well-measured settlement of this issue."

“We can work out ways to maintain peace and stability in the region where we have dispute(s)," Liu said.

The Philippines recently dispatched a military plane to the Spratlys, west of Palawan.

Liu also said he was “sure we have the wisdom to keep stability and peace in this region and at the same time, all of us will benefit from a stable and peaceful region."

He added that “if we can cooperate in this region in exploring and developing the resources, it’s going to be a wonderful arrangement."

“At the same time, we can reduce the sources of all conflicts," he added.

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