MANILA -– The Philippines has ignored China’s claim over Reed Bank, saying it has “exclusive sovereign rights” over the area.
Manila’s comments came after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei last week branded as “illegal” the Philippine government’s move to extend the service contract of British firm Forum Energy to conduct drilling operations in the oil and gas-rich area, locally known as Recto Bank, until August 2016.
China said such activities in the Reed Bank, which it claimed to be part of Chinese territory, is considered “illegal and invalid.”
Contrary to China’s assertions, Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said Reed Bank is not part of the disputed South China Sea and is well within the country exclusive economic zone and continental shelf as mandated by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.
“In accordance with UNCLOS, the Philippines has the exclusive sovereign rights over the Reed Bank. No other state is lawfully entitled to assert sovereignty or sovereign rights over the said area,” Jose said.
He explained that Reed Bank is “a completely submerged bank that is part of the continental margin of Palawan.”
Jose also pointed out that Reed Bank is far from China’s nearest landmass of Hainan province.
“Reed Bank…is about 85 nautical miles from the nearest coast of Palawan and about 595 nautical miles from the coast of Hainan (that) forms part of the 200 nautical mile continental shelf of the Philippine archipelago under UNCLOS,” Jose said.