DND: China's reclamation in 2 more reefs worsening situation
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 6, 2014 - 5:33pm

MANILA, Philippines - China’s reclamation in two reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands could worsen the already fragile balance of peace and stability in the region, the Department of National Defense (DND) said on Friday.

DND Spokesman Peter Galvez said the reclamation in Calderon (Cuarteron) and Gaven Reefs goes against the Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

“It’s a serious concern and a blatant disregard of the DOC,” Galvez said in a text message.  

“This will cause further deterioration of the fragile balance of peace and stability in the region,” he added.

The DOC calls on claimants to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability. These include refraining from inhabiting uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays and other features.

However, a binding code of conduct that will govern the actions of claimants has yet to be crafted.

Galvez said agreements calling for the peaceful resolution of concerns and the international law should be strictly observed.

He also stressed the urgent need to come up with a code of conduct among claimants in the West Philippine Sea.

On Thursday, President Aquino revealed that he had received reports about the movement of Chinese ships in Calderon and Gaven Reefs, areas that are within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

Aquino said some of the ships spotted in the area were capable of reclamation activities.

Galvez said the movements in Calderon Reef were monitored in March while the activities in Gaven Reef were detected sometime in May. 

Gaven Reef is close to Itu-Aba, the biggest island in the Spratlys where a Taiwanese garrison is located. It is beside Namyit Island, an area controlled by Vietnam.

Calderon Reef, meanwhile, is close to Malaysian-claimed waters and the Central Reef, East Reef and Pearson Reef, all under the control of Vietnam.

Aquino revealed the activities in Calderon and Gaven Reefs less than a month after the Philippines protested China’s reclamation in Mabini (Johnson South) Reef, which is about 263 nautical miles from Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

China rejected the Philippines’ protest and maintained that it has sovereignty over the reef.

China, which claims about 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea, has been building structures in disputed areas that are covered by its wide-reaching territorial claim.

It has built a garrison in Panganiban (Mischief) Reef off Palawan and has set up a naval blockade in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, where a grounded ship serving as Philippine military detachment is located.

China has also maintained its presence in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales, making it impossible for local fishermen to operate in the area. 

The United States and its allies have raised concerns over the possible impact of China's actions on regional security and freedom of navigation. (reports from V. Amoroso and A. Bajo)

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