MANILA—President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday said China is not doing reclamation in the Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc, which is only 120 nautical miles from Zambales.
”Well, there are no reclamation works being done by China on Scarborough Shoal,” President Aquino said in a media interview after the launching of the Balog-Balog Multipurpose Project in Barangay Sula, San Jose, Tarlac.
Aquino said the Philippine government is taking two-track approach to prevent possible attempt by China to extend its massive reclamation in the disputed West Philippine Sea up to the Scarborough Shoal which is “clearly within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone” of the Philippines.
”I am sure you know we have taken two tracks: One, is to work with ASEAN, and, of course, is arbitration and we are awaiting the decision,” he said.
The President said the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have agreed in 2002 to the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea which states: “The parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including among others refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”
”Now, I guess, what we are trying to tell the whole world is: There is an agreement, we observe this religiously, we can be trusted on this, we expect the other parties to do what we have been doing,” President Aquino said.
Aside from the Philippines, other ASEAN member countries partly claiming the West Philippine Sea or South China include: Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
The Philippines has filed arbitration case before the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in The Hague in the Netherlands.
The country is still awaiting for the Tribunal decision, hoping the court will invalidate China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.