Philippines accuses China of plans to occupy more features in South China Sea

WION Web Team
Manila, Philippines Updated: Apr 04, 2021, 03:08 PM(IST)

South China Sea Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

China claims almost the entirety of the resource-rich sea and has asserted its stance by building up small shoals and reefs into military bases with airstrips and port facilities.

Philippines on Sunday accused Beijing of planning to occupy more "features" in the disputed South China Sea.

China claims almost the entirety of the resource-rich sea and has asserted its stance by building up small shoals and reefs into military bases with airstrips and port facilities.

Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all have rival claims to the waters, which incorporate strategically crucial shipping lanes and could harbour oil and gas deposits. A fleet of more than 200 Chinese ships that sparked a diplomatic row last month after parking at Whitsun Reef off the Philippines is now scattered across the contested Spratly Islands.

Manila, to this end, called on Beijing to withdraw the "maritime militia" vessels from the area, saying their presence is unlawful. China refused, insisting they are fishing boats and are allowed to operate there.

But Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the vessels were there for other reasons.

"The continued presence of Chinese maritime militias in the area reveals their intent to further occupy features in the West Philippine Sea," he said.

Also read | US, Philippines officials discuss Chinese activities in South China Sea

Lorenzana pointed to China's seizure of the Philippine-claimed Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef as previous examples of them "brazenly violating" his country's sovereignty.

On Saturday, Lorenzana rejected China's claims that the boats parked at Whitsun Reef -- and where dozens remained last week -- had been seeking shelter from bad weather. 

The Chinese embassy in Manila called Lorenzana's statement "perplexing" and urged authorities to avoid "unprofessional remarks which may further fan irrational emotions".

Beijing often invokes the so-called nine-dash line to justify its apparent historic rights over most of the South China Sea, and it has ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared this assertion as without basis.

The Philippines military recently spotted illegal man-made structures in the South China Sea near the area where hundreds of Chinese vessels had gathered last month.

Authorities documented these structures as illegal and man-made, which are visible on Union Banks in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands.

Also read | Philippines military finds more 'illegal' structures in South China Sea

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