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DFA: Reclamation on Mabini Reef endangers Phl case vs. China

(The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2014 - 4:30pm

MANILA, Philippines - China's land reclamation on the disputed Mabini Reef might affect the Philippines' arbitration case, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Friday.

At a televised press briefing, DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said China may be turning the maritime feature into an island to endanger Manila's case under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"It will jeopardize 'yung case because they are trying to change the physical character or nature of [the reef]," Jose said.

The DFA earlier said the Philippines had included Mabini Reef in the 4,000-page memorial or written argument submitted to the arbitral tribunal to clarify the area's physical character.

Jose said under the UNCLOS, maritime features like rocks and reefs are entitled to 12 nautical miles of territorial sea without an exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

But this maritime entitlement may be changed if the Mabini Reef's character is altered. Jose explained that China could get an EEZ of 200 nautical miles if it turns Mabini Reef into an island.

The DFA has released photographs showing in stages the extensive reclamation by China on the area also known as Johnson South Reef, where an airstrip or a military base may be built by China as some officials have feared.

"These actions are considered destabilizing and in violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and international law. Mabini Reef is part of the Kalayaan Island Group which is part of Philippine territory," the DFA said in an earlier statement.

The agency said the Philippines filed a protest last month, but it was rejected by China.

China's Foreign Ministry said the Asian giant has "indisputable sovereignty" over the Mabini Reef, known to Beijing as Chigua Reef. -Louis Bacani

CHARLES JOSE CHIGUA REEF CHINA CONDUCT OF PARTIES DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS FOREIGN MINISTRY JOHNSON SOUTH REEF KALAYAAN ISLAND GROUP LAW OF THE SEA MABINI REEF REEF
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