MANILA – Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said that a reclamation project allegedly being carried out by China on Kagitingan Reef in the South China Sea has been contested by the The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Del Rosarios said that the DFA sent a diplomatic communication to China dealing with the construction that is reportedly taking place on on Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef.
“We looked at our records and discovered that a note verbale has already been sent. We were protesting the activity,” De Rosario told reporters on Tuesday, in an ambush interview conducted outside the DFA’s budget deliberations in the Senate.
One of the issues taken up in the note verbale – which was sent to China on October 10 airtsrip on the disputed reef.
Satellite images taken in August and November by an international defense publication reveal the presence of Chinese forces constructing a structure which spans 3,000 meters on the reef.
This is reportedly China’s first military airstrip in the Spratlys.
Meanwhile, according to reports from the Associated Press, China’s Foreign Ministry has said that the project will allow its citizens working in the disputed areas to “better perform international obligations in terms of search, rescue and other public services.”
In March 2001, the Philippines sought UN arbitration in the matter of the disputed waters. The country asked the tribunal to declare Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea – which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea – a violation of international law; adding tension to an already volatile situation between the two Southeast Asian neighbours.
The Philippines includes Kagitingan Reef within its territory as part of the Kalayaan Group of Islands. China’s claim, on the other hand, stretches across almost the entire expanse of sea, and extends into areas claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
The South China Sea is essential to world trade, and is thought to contain rich reserves of oil