mabini reef

It’s getting worse.

The Philippine Air Force monitored 10 to 12 Chinese Coast Guard vessels in the West Philippine Sea on maritime patrol missions, sensing haste in Chinese activity in disputed waters. This has prompted Manila to seek an expeditious ruling by a United Nations tribunal on its challenge to Beijing’s expansive claim over the South China Sea.

Generally, a state’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) extends to a distance of 200 nautical miles (370 km) out from its coastal baseline. The idea of allotting nations EEZs to give better control of maritime affairs outside territorial limits gained acceptance in the late 20th century.

“What we want to do is, because China is not participating, and because the situation is getting worse every day in the South China Sea, I’m asking our [lawyers] in the US if we can present a request to the tribunal if they can hasten the process,” Del Rosario told reporters via Inquirer.

The West Philippine Sea is part of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer EEZ, but China, insisting that it is part of its territory, is reclaiming land on various reefs in those waters that may be used to build offshore military outposts.

“Any action by China on any island falls within China’s sovereignty and has nothing to do with the Philippines,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei via the Cambodia herald.

Malvar Reef is located northeast of Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef), where China has been discovered to have been reclaiming land that the Philippine government fears could be used to build an airstrip or an offshore military base right in the heart of the Philippines’ EEZ.

President Benigno Aquino III spoke to reporters on Thursday about the movement of Chinese ships toward Gavin Reefs, possibly to reclaim land.

The president gave no details, but Gavin Reefs — two reefs in the Tizard Bank of the Spratly Islands that are also claimed by Vietnam — are already under Chinese control.

“We intensify the number of flights in the area so that we can detect the presence of ships and the developments on the islets … We can’t count the number of ships on a particular day because these are moving vessels on patrol. Their presence can’t be fixed in one place,” Air Force spokesperson Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya said.

“Every time there is an air patrol, we observe their presence,” he added.

– DONNA ABIGAIL L. BULA
LNU ABCom Intern

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