The Ayungin Shoal recently came into focus in the Philippine public mind when Chinese coast guard ships prevented a Philippine civilian government boat from provisioning the marine outpost aboard the derelict BRP Sierra Madre. The latter was intentionally grounded by the Philippines in 1999, four years after the Chinese troops seized the nearby Mischief Reef and started building a permanent outpost. It is now a flashpoint in the current political tussle between the People’s Republic of China and the Philippines.
The Ayungin Shoal is a small submerged formation that forms part of the Spratly Island group, and about 200 kilometers west of Palawan. The Philippines considers it as part of its continental shelf and within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as defined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China, however, claims that it is within its “territorial waters” as indicated in its so-called “Nine-Dash Line” map submitted to the UN in 2009. It has since added a 10th dash east of Taiwan, close to the Japanese island of Yonaguni.
Judge Gao Zhiguo, China’s appointee to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, said that the dashed line has three meanings: first, ‘it represents the title to the island groups that it encloses’; second, ‘it preserves Chinese historic rights in fishing, navigation, and such other marine activities as oil and gas development in the waters and on the continental shelf surrounded by the line’; and third, it may serve as a basis for ‘potential maritime delimitation lines’.
This seems to hint at two things. First, that China is holding on to its claim of territoriality insofar as island groups are concerned, particularly the Paracels (Xisha Qundao) and Spratlys (Nansha Qundao) and, based on “historic rights,” insofar as waters and continental shelf within the line. Second, it is willing to negotiate maritime delimitation lines. The latter, I suspect, is the one it is willing to open to bilateral negotiations, hence the dash lines.
Read more: https://ph.news.yahoo.com/blogs/parallaxis/ayungin-dilemma-084927723.html