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02/06/2011: Statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs on Developments in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) conveyed to the Chinese Embassy's Charge d'affaires its serious concerns over recent actions of the People's Republic of China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on May 31.

Citing reports from the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the DFA requested clarification from the Chinese Embassy on the recent sightings of a China Marine Surveillance (CMS) vessel and other People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships at the vicinity of Iroquois Reef-Amy Douglas Bank in the West Philippine Sea. These ships reportedly unloaded building materials, erected an undetermined number of posts, and placed a buoy near the breaker of the Amy Douglas Bank.

The Amy Douglas Bank is located southwest of Recto (Reed) Bank and east of Patag (Flat) Island and is well within the Philippines' 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). There are currently no structures on the said bank and the latter is unoccupied.

The posts and buoy placed by the Chinese at the vicinity of the Amy Douglas Bank are about 26 nautical mile east of Patag Island and 125 nautical mile from mainland Palawan.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario said that "any new construction by China in the vicinity of the uninhabited Amy Douglas Bank is a clear violation of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea."

The May 31 summons followed a meeting held last May 27, where the DFA also conveyed its concern to the Chinese Embassy over reports in Chinese state media about China's planned installation of its most advanced oil rig in the South China Sea this coming July. During this meeting, the DFA asked the Chinese Embassy for the exact planned location of the mega oil rig and pointed that it should not be placed in Philippine territory or its waters.

In both meetings, the Philippines and China reiterated their respective commitment to the maintenance of peace and stability in the area, and to work together to maintain good bilateral relations.

The Philippines recognizes that critical to the peace and stability of the West Philippine Sea is the full and faithful implementation of the ASEAN-China DOC on the South China Sea. The Philippines also believes that it is in the best interest of all claimant countries and the region to transform the area into a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation (ZOPFF/C) through sustained consultations and dialogue.

ZOPFF/C provides a framework for segregating the disputed territorial features which may be considered for collaborative activities from the non-disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea in accordance with international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Philippines is also committed to cooperating closely and actively with ASEAN and China in finding peaceful solutions to attain this goal. END