China protests Philippines continental shelf claim

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
China protests Philippines continental shelf claim
In this photo taken September 9, 2022, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a joint press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (not pictured) at the Foreign ministry in Islamabad.
AFP / Ghulam Rasool

MANILA, Philippines — China has protested the Philippines’ claim before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UN CLCS) for an extended continental shelf west of Palawan in the West Philippine Sea.

In a June 18 communication addressed to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the UN said the Chinese government “seriously requests the Commission not to consider the submission by the Philippines.”

It claimed without basis that the Philippines’ claim to a 200-nautical-mile extended continental shelf in the West Palawan Region (WPR) “seriously infringed China’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea.”

China said it has “indisputable sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao and adjacent waters, and enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters as well as the seabed and subsoil thereof.”

Nanhai Zhudao refers to China’s so-called “South China Sea Islands,” its term for four major island chains spread out in the disputed waters, including the Spratly Islands west of Palawan, which is covered by the Philippines’ latest extended continental shelf claim.

The Philippines sought UN recognition of the extended continental margin, citing geological and tectonic data on the Palawan-Mindoro continent and the WPR.

The Philippines provided data that the WPR “is a natural prolongation of the land territory of the Philippines that extends beyond 200 M from the baselines,” thus “demonstrat(ing) that the Philippines is entitled to a continental shelf beyond 200 M in the WPR,” according to the 30-page executive summary of its June 14 partial submission to the UN CLCS.

According to UNCLOS, a country’s continental shelf “comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines.”

But the outer edge of the continental shelf should not exceed 350 nautical miles from the baseline.

“The Philippines makes this partial submission to build confidence and promote international cooperation in the peaceful and amicable resolution of maritime boundary issues,” read the submission.

The Philippines clarified that its submission was filed “without prejudice” to similar entitlements in the region by Vietnam and Malaysia, which also filed claims before the UN CLCS that may overlap with the WPR.

“The Philippines manifests its willingness to discuss with the relevant states the delimitation of the maritime boundaries,” the submission read.

“The Philippines requests the Commission to examine its submission concerning the WPR without prejudice to the question of delimitation with opposite or adjacent coastal states,” it added.

Vietnam said it is also willing to talk to the Philippines about its overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

“Vietnam once again affirms its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos in accordance with international law,” foreign ministry spokesperson Pham Thu Hang said in a statement posted on a government website, as reported by Reuters.

Hang was referring to Vietnam’s names for the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

“Coastal states, when submitting their outer continental shelf boundaries, need to respect the legitimate rights and interests of other relevant coastal states with opposite or adjacent coastlines,” Hang said in the statement.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, until its sweeping nine-dash line on supposed historical basis was invalidated by a UN-backed arbitration court in 2016.

It has stepped up its aggressive actions in the disputed waters, with its latest action on June 17 the most violent yet after its coast guard rammed Philippine boats near Ayungin Shoal during its routine resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre, the grounded wartime ship that serves as the Philippines’ military outpost to stake its claim.

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