Our dispute with China over its claims on certain islets, reefs and shoals in the South China/West Philippine Sea may not be resolved soon.
Of late, China’s aggressive unilateral acts have been making news – it has been frenetically undertaking land reclamations and construction in some of the contested maritime areas. This has spurred, besides protests from all the aggrieved contending parties including the Philippines, ominous military reaction by the United States.
Specifically, satellite images taken in March show that China has done reclamation on Subi Reef, constructed an airstrip and harbor and various facilities on the new island. More recent images on Mischief Reef (135 miles off Palawan, which China occupied much earlier) show heavy equipment dredging sand from the seabed and building another island on it. The Philippines has protested these unilateral actions and accused China of destroying 300 acres of coral reefs, causing “irreparable and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance” of the area.
Thus we who are outraged ought to exercise utmost judiciousness and urge the Aquino government to do the same so as not to prejudice what it has done right on the matter thus far.
It was diplomatically prudent and legally correct that the Department of Foreign Affairs filed in March 2013 a case against China at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. The ITLOS has referred the case for hearing by its Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague. The DFA has already submitted two memorials (documentary evidence and written arguments) and is preparing for the oral arguments in July.