By Tessa Jamandre, VERA Files
For Yahoo! Southeast Asia
The Philippines has lodged a diplomatic protest against China's "9-dash line" territorial claim over the whole of the South China Sea, a month before President Aquino's planned state visit to Beijing.
The Philippine protest, dated April 5, was posted by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) as document No. 000228 on April 8.
But the Philippine government tarried in filing the protest, doing so two years after Vietnam and Malaysia, and a year after Indonesia. Vietnam and Malaysia filed their protest a day after China submitted its 9-dash line map to the UN on May 7, 2009. Indonesia registered its protest a year ago, even if it did not have a claim on the South China Sea.
The map is called "9-dash line" or "9-dotted line" because it shows a series of nine dashes or dotted lines forming a ring around the South China Sea area, which China claims is part of its territory. The area includes the Spratlys group, a cluster of oil-rich islands which are being claimed wholly or in part by Brunei, China Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
China has been using the map with nine dashes in asserting its territorial claim over the whole of the South China Sea. But the map first made its way to the UN body when China used it to challenge the claim made by Vietnam and Malaysia over their extended continental shelves in the South China Sea.
The Vietnamese and Malaysian claims were made May 6, 2009; China protested that claim using the 9-dash map the next day, May 7. What followed was a series of quick exchanges where Vietnam and Malaysia responded to the Chinese protest.
But it would be three months, or August 4, 2009, before the Philippines protested the submissions made by Vietnam and Malaysia.
Its April 5, 2011 protest against China came in the form of a note verbale submitted through its Permanent Mission to the UN, and makes three assertions related to the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), situated within the Spratlys.
Firstly, the government said, the KIG constitutes an integral part of the Philippines and to which is has sovereignty and jurisdiction.
Secondly, the Philippines exercises sovereignty and jurisdiction over the waters around or adjacent to each relevant geological feature in the KIG under the international law principle "the land dominates the sea," as provided for under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Finally, the government said, China's claim on "relevant waters, seabed and subsoil" related to the KIG has no basis under UNCLOS as that jurisdiction belongs to the Philippines.
The various claims as well as protests are now lodged with the CLCS, which will help mediate conflicting claims over territory and help set the limits of coastal states' continental shelves.
The Philippine protest comes at a stressful time in its relations with China, which executed three Filipino drug convicts last March 30, despite a request for leniency from President Aquino.
Earlier, on March 3, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over Chinese incursion into Reed Bank, 250 kilometers west of Palawan, where an oil exploration is ongoing. Reed Bank is part of the KIG and is also being claimed by China and Vietnam.
President Aquino is scheduled to go on a state visit to China from May 23 to 25.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")