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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        14  April 2011

Philippines files South China Sea protest against China

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The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest to the United Nations (UN) against China, saying its broad claim to islands and adjacent waters in the South China Sea has no basis in international law.

Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia have filed similar protests over a map China submitted to the U.N. in 2009 that claims sovereignty over islands, adjacent waters, seabed and subsoil in the South China Sea.

The Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam claim in whole or in part the Spratlys — a group of islands, reefs and atolls in the South China Sea believed to be sitting atop vast oil and gas reserves.

Indonesia is not a claimant but also protested last year.

In the note verbally submitted to the U.N. Division on Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea, the Philippines said the Kalayaan Island Group in the Spratlys was an integral part of the Philippines, which has sovereignty and jurisdiction over its geological features.

It said the Philippines also has sovereignty and jurisdiction over waters around or adjacent to each geological feature in the Kalayaan Island Group under the international law principle that land dominates the sea, as provided under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.

Since waters adjacent to the geological features in the Kalaayan Island Group are definite and subject to legal and technical measurement, China's claims "on the relevant waters as well as the seabed and subsoil" outside of the geological features "have no basis under international law, specifically UNCLOS," the Philippines said.

The protest came after a Philippine Department of Energy ship searching for oil complained last month that it was harassed by two Chinese patrol boats in the Reed Bank near the Spratlys. The Philippine military deployed two warplanes and the Chinese vessel later left without confrontation, officials said.

China asserted that the area is within the adjacent waters of the Spratlys, which it claims and calls "Nansha islands."

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