The Philippines has lodged another diplomatic protest against China’s continuing reclamation on the Philippine-claimed Mischief Reef, after it discovered that China has started to dredge for the construction of new structures in the disputed reef, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose said that Mischief Reef, which is about 135 km southeast of the island of Palawan is a rich fishing ground within Philippine territory that came under Chinese control in 1995.
It was discovered that China has started dredging around the disputed Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef) in the South China Sea, a sign that Beijing may be preparing to expand its facilities in the area, the DFA official said in a press briefing.
Jose said that Chinese embassy representatives were summoned to the DFA last February 4 to receive a diplomatic note conveying Manila’s “strong protest” concerning China’s latest activity at the reef, called Panganiban in Filipino.
He called China’s reclamation activities a “flagrant violation of these rights.”
“We strongly urge China to desist from its reclamation activities in the Panganiban Reef, to respect international law, specifically the UNCLOS and its disputes settlement mechanisms,” Jose said.
Jose Cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, saying that only the Philippines has the “exclusive right to authorize construction of artificial islands, installations or other structures in the vicinity of Panganiban Reef.”
China has already undertaken reclamation work on six other reefs it occupies in the Spratlys, expanding land mass five-fold, aerial surveillance photos show.
Only last month the DFA also protested China’s reclaiming of land on Mabini (Johnson South) Reef.
President Aquino brought up the issue of China’s reclamation on Mabini Reef during the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Myanmar.
China, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia lay claim on parts or virtually the entire contested region, islands and reefs, where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.