Jun 142013

NEW YORK–A U.S. group critical of China’s claim on islands off the Philippines will hold a protest rally at the United Nations headquarters here on July 24.

The U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) is denouncing China’s latest “incursion” in Ayungin Reef, located just 105 nautical miles from Palawan.

Rep. Walden Bello of the Akbayan partylist announced that his group is joining the July 24 mass action in the Philippines and will encourage its supporters throughout the world to join in global actions to denounce China’s provocative actions in the Ayungin Reef.

“China seized the Philippines’ Mischief Reef in 1994, then our Scarborough Shoal last year,” stated Loida Nicolas Lewis, the national chair of USP4GG and former national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).

“This year, China is set to invade and occupy the Ayungin Reef. We refuse to accept China’s expansionist agenda.”

Sansha anniversary

Lewis explained that July 24 marks the first anniversary of China’s establishment of the Sansha City Prefecture, which Beijing mandated to have jurisdiction over more than two million square kilometers of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), including islands and reefs in the Spratlys that are within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) protested the creation of the Sansha Prefecture, after learning that its jurisdiction covered the Kalayaan Island Group in the Spratlys, which “is an integral part of the Philippine territory falling under the municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan province.”

“Sansha City has been a subject of a Philippine protest as its administrative jurisdiction encompasses Philippine territory and maritime zones in the West Philippine Sea,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

The USP4GG said the July 24 action at the United Nations would include simultaneous town hall meetings to discuss the China threat in Filipino communities throughout the United States. It would also call on the U.S. communities of the claimant countries whose territories are being invaded by Chinese ships from the Sansha Prefecture. “All patriotic Filipinos should join in the July 4 denunciation of China’s imperialist activities in the South China/West Philippine Sea,” the group stated.

Gross violation

Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario asserted that the creation of the Sansha Prefecture was in “gross violation” of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), a ten-year-old document that aims to deter use of force among countries claiming resource-rich territories in the South China Sea, including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Beijing announced that beginning January 1 Chinese naval ships from the Sansha Prefecture would begin patrolling the waters in the South China Sea under its jurisdiction.

On May 8, Philippine maritime surveillance vessels spotted three Chinese naval ships surrounding the Ayungin Reef (Second Thomas Shoal), which is located just 105 nautical miles from Palawan, well within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. The Ayungin Reef is guarded by a Philippine marine detachment on board the BRP Sierra Madre, which is permanently moored on the reef to protect it.

“We will not allow China to establish a blockade to prevent the Philippine Navy from replenishing the Philippine marine base at Ayungin with personnel and materials,” declared Ted Laguatan, spokesman of the USP4GG. “We support Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s vow to defend Ayungin to the last soldier standing.”

The Ayungin Reef is considered the gateway to the Recto Bank, which the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) estimates to contain 2.5 billion barrels of oil and 25.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In his July 25, 2011 State of the Nation Address (SONA), Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III declared: “What is ours is ours; setting foot on Recto Bank is no different from setting foot on Recto Avenue.”

UNCLOS claim

On January 22, the Philippines formally filed its claim against China before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal under Article 287 and Annex VII of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).   The Philippines asserted that China’s “nine-dash line” claim that encompasses virtually the entire South China Sea/West Philippine Sea is contrary to UNCLOS and is thus unlawful.

The Philippines also charged that “within the maritime area encompassed by the nine-dash line, China has also laid claim to, occupied and built structures on certain submerged banks, reefs and low tide elevations that do not qualify as islands under UNCLOS, but are parts of the Philippine continental shelf, or the international seabed and has interfered with the lawful exercise by the Philippines of its rights within its legitimate maritime zones, as well as to the aforementioned features and their surrounding waters.”

For more information, log on to USPGG.org.

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Tags: Ayungin Reef , nautical miles , Protest , Scarborough Shoal , sovereignty , Spratlys , territorial claims , UN

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