China hits RP claim on parts of Spratlys

Published by rudy Date posted on February 19, 2009

‘A violation of Chinese sovereignty’
BEIJING—China Wednesday slammed the Philippines for laying claim to parts of the disputed Spratly Islands, calling the move a violation of Chinese sovereignty.

“The government of the People’s Republic of China has indisputable sovereignty over these islands and their adjacent waters,” said a statement issued by the foreign ministry.

The statement took exception to Philippine claims on Huangyan Island—also known as Scarborough Shoal—and other parts of the Spratlys, which are known in China as the Nansha islands.

Filipino lawmakers on Tuesday passed the baselines bill spelling out Philippine claims in the South China Sea, whose islands are claimed in whole or in part by a host of Asian nations.

The legislation, however, also acknowledges rival claims.

Included within the Philippine claims are the Scarborough Shoal (off Zambales), also claimed by China, and part of the Spratly chain, also claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

“Claims to territory sovereignty over Huangyan Island and the Nansha Islands by any other country are all illegal and invalid,” the statement said.

Palawan municipality

Kalayaan Island, a part of Spratlys, is a municipality of the province of Palawan. It regularly holds Philippine elections. It is composed of just one barangay (village), Pag-Asa. The island with an airstrip is occupied and secured by a Philippine military contingent.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya summoned the chargé d’affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Beijing Wednesday to lodge a “stern protest” over the bill.

Deng Xijun, chargé d’affaires of the Chinese embassy in Manila, confirmed Beijing’s protest over the measure.

Ready for signing

There was no immediate mention of any retaliatory measures.

The islands sit astride vital sea lanes and may contain significant oil and gas deposits.

In Manila, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will sign the baselines bill into law once it is transmitted to Malacañang, which could be as early as next week.

“We hope the President will sign this maybe next week,” Ermita said.

The Philippine bill, which has passed the bicameral conference committee early this week and is ready for signing into law by President Arroyo, treats Kalayaan and Scarborough as part of a “regime of islands.”

This means that the islands are outside the territorial baselines, but the country is still claiming ownership over them.

Insisting that these islands should remain within the country’s limits, two congressmen Wednesday expressed intentions to challenge the law, once it is signed, before the Supreme Court.

With reports from Joel Guinto and Veronica Uy, and Agence France-Presse

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