January 8, 2012 / 8:30 AM / 8 years ago

Manila protests Chinese ships' presence in Spratlys

MANILA, Jan 8 (Reuters) - The Philippines accused China of intruding into its “maritime jurisdiction” after three Chinese ships were spotted last month in disputed areas in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Sunday.

China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have conflicting claims in the Spratlys, an area believed to contain huge deposits of oil and gas in the South China Sea. [ID;nSGE6950BX]

A Philippine foreign ministry statement said it had summoned the Chinese embassy’s charge d’affaires on Thursday to convey “its serious concerns over recent actions of the People’s Republic of China in the West Philippine Sea”.

Manila refers to the South China Sea as West Philippine Sea to strengthen its claims on parts of the Spratlys. Philippine troops occupy nine islands and shoals in the Spratlys.

Citing reports from the defence and military establishments, the foreign ministry said two Chinese vessels and a Chinese navy warship were seen around Sabina shoal in the Spratlys on December 11 and 12, respectively.

“These intrusions of the Chinese are clear violations of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea as well as the provision of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” the foreign ministry said.

Sabina shoal is around 124 nautical miles from the western island of Palawan and is within “Philippine sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction”.

In May 2011, Manila accused China of intrusions into its territory, citing six instances, including one in March when two Chinese patrol boats tried to ram a survey ship.

The disputed ownership of oil-rich reefs and islands in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in trade sails annually, is one of the biggest security threats in Asia.

Beijing says it has historical sovereignty over the South C000hina, superseding claims of other countries.

Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Ron Popeski

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