|Geann Pineda |||Feb 11, 2015 03:44 AM EST|
Illegal Chinese structures on Mischief Reef, which was seized by China from the Philippines.
The Philippines wants China to immediately stop its massive reclamation work at a disputed reef in the South China Sea, claiming the activity is stoking tensions in the area.
The Philippines Foreign Affairs Department has filed a diplomatic protest against China on February 4th, urging Beijing to respect international laws.
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Philippines Foreign Affairs Spokesman Charles Jose said the Mischief Reef, also known as Panganiban Reef in Filipino, is a rich fishing ground and "is a low tide elevation within the Philippine economic zone". He said it is considered Philippine territory.
Jose adds the Philippines has the sole right to construct, install other structures and authorize the construction of artificial lands within the vicinity of the reef, citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.
The spokesman further claimed China's recent activities at the Mischief Reef are violating such rights.
China had long insisted it owns nearly all of the South China Sea, ignoring territorial claims by other neighboring countries aside from the Philippines, such as Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Manila had also called on Beijing to practice self-restraint on conducting activities in the disputed areas.
The Philippines reminded China about an earlier agreement it signed with other South China Sea claimants, that stops new occupation of territories in the disputed area.
But document lacks the power to sanction countries that will violate its provisions.
China had seized the Mischief Reef in 1995 when it built stilt structures. It later converted the stilts to multi-level concrete building.
Beijing is also undertaking reclamation work on six other areas in the disputed Spratly Islands.
The Philippines had also filed two other protests against China, one for the alleged ramming of three Philippine fishing boats by a Chinese coast guard ship at Scarborough Shoal and the other for the reported collection of endangered giant clams by Chinese fishermen.
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