|A Philippine coastguard ship BRP Langgam sails past a Chinese coastguard ship (background) near the Scarborough shoal in 2019. Photo: AFP|
China's "nine-dash line" used to claim most of the South China Sea (or Bien Dong Sea ) is a fabrication, the Philippine defence minister said, as he accused Beijing of illegally occupying the Philippines' maritime territory.
The remarks late on August 23 come amid a fresh row between Manila and Beijing over the disputed Scarborough shoal, which has long been a flashpoint between the two countries, according to AFP.
The Philippine foreign ministry last week lodged a diplomatic protest over what it said was the "illegal confiscation" by China's coast guard of fishing equipment near the shoal.
China seized Scarborough from the Philippines in 2012 following a tense stand-off.
The shoal, one of the region's richest fishing grounds, is located 240km west of the Philippines' main island of Luzon and 650km from the nearest major Chinese land mass, the southern island province of Hainan.
|Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says China had encroached on the Philippines' economic zones at sea. Photo: AFP|
"That area is within our EEZ," Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters in a text message, referring to the country's exclusive economic zone.
"Their (China's) so-called historical rights over an area enclosed by their nine-line doesn't exist except in their imaginations.
"Our fishermen are within our EEZ and likewise our ships and planes conduct patrol sorties within our area.
"They (China) are the ones who have been doing provocations by illegally occupying some features within our EEZ. Hence they have no right to claim they are enforcing their laws."
Beijing claims the majority of the sea, often invoking its so-called “nine-dash line” to justify its alleged historic rights to the key waterway that is also contested by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei.
It rejected a 2016 UN-backed tribunal's ruling that its claims were without legal basis.
|Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana makes the remarks amid a fresh row between Manila and Beijing over the disputed Scarborough shoal. Photo: Reuters|
China's foreign ministry on August 21 defended the coast guard, saying they had carried out law enforcement activities and "their actions are understandable".
It also accused Philippine military aircraft of invading Chinese airspace in another disputed section of the sea and urged Manila to "immediately stop illegal provocative activities".
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque, however, has played down the spat.
"Our diplomats routinely lodge protests like that if we believe our sovereign rights are violated," he said.
"But it will not affect the overall good relations between our country and China,” he added. /.
The Philippines last month renewed its call for compliance with the ruling issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) four years ago which rejected China’s claims in the East Sea.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. made the call on the 4th anniversary of the ruling, which, he said, conclusively settled the issue of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the East Sea based on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
He stressed that the ruling is non-negotiable and the tribunal authoritatively ruled that China’s claim of historic rights to resources within the sea had no basis in law.
Locsin said the arbitration tribunal ruled that certain actions within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone violate the country’s sovereign rights and are thus unlawful.
“Compliance in good faith with the award would be consistent with the obligations of the Philippines and China under international law,” Locsin was quoted by AP as saying.