Philippines calls on construction freeze in South China Sea

Philippines calls on construction freeze in South China Sea
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario

MANILA - The Philippines said on Monday that China's "expansion agenda" in the disputed South China Sea threatened security and stability in the region, calling on all claimant states to halt construction activities that may raise tensions.

Albert del Rosario, foreign affairs secretary, said he supported US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Russel's proposal for China and Southeast Asian states to get together for dialogue.

"Let's call for a moratorium in terms of activities that escalate tension," del Rosario told ANC Television on Monday.

"Now, let's do that while we work on an expeditious conclusion of the code of conduct and effective implementation."

Del Rosario said China and other claimant states have been rushing construction activities in their respective claimed territories to expand, citing works in Fiery Cross Reef, Johnson South Reef, Gaven Reef, and Cuarteron Reef.

"They're accelerating their expansion agenda for the following reasons, what are they? One is they want to do this before the conclusion of the code of conduct. They're also trying to do this very quickly in anticipation of the handing down of the tribunal award."

Southeast Asian states have been pressing China to conclude a Code of Conduct - a set of rules governing naval actions - for the South China Sea.

Last year, the Philippines filed a case at the UN Arbitral Court in the The Hague to clarify its rights to explore and exploit resources under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.

China claims 90 per cent of the South China Sea, believed to have huge oil-and-gas deposits and rich in fishery resources. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims over the sea where about $5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year.

Del Rosario said Chinese construction in the Spratlys are an attempt to alter the character of the features, converting reefs into islands to be able to increase maritime entitlements.

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