World Bulletin / News Desk
The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest claiming China is conducting reclamation work in a disputed area of the South China Sea.
Both countries lay claim to a reef in the region, which Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Wednesday China may be trying to build an airstrip on.
"We can confirm that there is ongoing reclamation or earthmoving activities in that portion," Philippines' Defense Department Spokesman Peter Galvez later told media.
According to a Wednesday statement on the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs' website, China has rejected the protest.
Japan’s Kyodo News has published pictures of construction purportedly being undertaken on the land, a Philippine military source telling Kyodo that the Chinese plan on turning the reef into a military outpost.
The Philippines says the Mabini Reef – which China refers to as Chigua – lies within its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf and is mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The reef is part of the Spratly chain, is located about 300 kilometers (186 miles) west of the Philippine island of Palawan, and is believed to be rich in energy deposits.
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.
Ties between the neighbors have become strained over the last month, with Vietnam claiming China has moved a large oil rig into an area it claims as its own, with both Beijing and Hanoi accusing 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 (ASEAN) summit in Myanmar that it had acted with the "utmost restraint," and tried all kinds of dialogue to ask China to remove the rig.
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."
The Philippines - which refers to parts of the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea - is also understood to have raised the issue behind closed doors at last weekend's summit.
In the past, it has sought international arbitration to clear up the dispute, which many fear could provoke military confrontation as well as threatening vital sea and air trade routes.Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Mayıs 2014, 15:20