Philippines: Photos show China developing disputed reef

Says China's actions considered destabilizing and in violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and international law

Says China's actions considered destabilizing and in violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and international law

MANILA - Surveillance photographs released by the Philippine government on Thursday claim to illustrate China attempting to develop a reef in the South China Sea that Manila says is its own.

A statement on the Philippine's department of foreign affairs website says that the series of images "gathered from Philippine intelligence sources" illustrate in stages the extensive reclamation by China of Mabini Reef. 

The Philippines refers to the disputed reef - part of the Spratly Islands chain - as Mabini, while China - that also claims the reef as its own - calls it Chinua. It is located about 186 miles (300 kilometers) west of the Philippine island of Palawan, and is believed to be rich in energy deposits. To further complicate matters, Vietnam, which fought a deadly 1988 naval battle against China in the area, has also laid claim.

Thursday's statement added that China's 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," it underlined.

The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest claiming China is conducting reclamation work on the reef, saying it lies within its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf and is mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Wednesday that China may be trying to build an airstrip on the land.

China, meanwhile, has rejected the protest. 

“It falls within China’s sovereignty rights to engage in construction on the relevant reef,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news conference in Beijing on Wednesday.

“I wonder what special motives there are behind such concerns by the Philippines.”

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even though it overlaps with the sovereign jurisdiction of Southeast Asian neighbors the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. 

The Philippines refers to parts of the sea as the West Philippine Sea.

Ties between the neighbors have become strained over the last month, with Vietnam also claiming China has moved a large oil rig into an area it claims as its own. Beijing and Hanoi have accused each other of ramming each other's ships.

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told member countries at last weekend's Association of South East Asian Nations summit in Myanmar that it had acted with the "utmost restraint," and tried all kinds of dialogue to ask China to remove the rig.

Meanwhile, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has called on Vietnam to "see the situation clearly, calmly face up to reality, and stop harassing the Chinese operations."

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