MANILA May 19 Philippine President Benigno
Aquino accused China on Monday of violating a 12-year-old
informal code of conduct in the South China Sea with land
reclamation work in a disputed shoal.
China has stepped up activity to assert its claim to most of
the energy-rich South China Sea.
But Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan
also have claims over parts of the sea through which about $5
trillion of ship-borne goods pass every year.
China's activity has in particular raised alarm in the
Philippines and in Vietnam, where a dispute over an offshore
drilling rig sparked deadly anti-Chinese riots last week.
China and the 10-member Association of South East Asian
Nations (ASEAN) signed an agreement in 2002 to refrain from
occupying uninhabited reefs and shoals in the sea, and from
building new structures that would complicate disputes.
"In our view, what they are doing there now is in violation
of what we had agreed in the Declaration of Conduct of Parties
in the South China Sea," Aquino told reporters.
"The problem is this code is not binding, not enforceable,
so we need to come up with a formal code of conduct to resolve
the dispute and prevent any potential conflict."
Last week, the Philippine foreign ministry released
surveillance photographs of China's reclamation work in Johnson
South Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. China appears to be
building an airstrip, its first in the Spratlys.
Peter Paul Galvez, a Philippine Defence Department
spokesman, said the military noticed the reclamation work early
this year. A Chinese airstrip in the area could pose a serious
threat to security and stability in the region, he said.
China has rejected the Philippine protest over its work on
the reef saying it is its territory so China has the right to
Elsewhere in the South China Sea, Vietnamese and Chinese
vessels are squaring off in disputed waters where China wants to
place the oil rig.
China and ASEAN, which includes the Philippines and Vietnam,
have been negotiating a formal code of conduct but some ASEAN
states are getting impatient with the slow pace of progress.
Aquino said Vietnam and the Philippines were pushing for the
code of conduct to be concluded quickly.
(Editing by Robert Birsel)