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Taipei concerned about Manila's downgrading of Taiping Island

Taipei concerned about Manila's downgrading of Taiping Island

Taipei, Feb. 2 (CNA) The government is "highly concerned" about a case Philippines has brought against China in an international court in which it argues that the land features comprising the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea are not islands, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday.

According to the Philippines, they should therefore not be entitled to exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

The ministry said that the Philippines submitted the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague last year to challenge China's view that the reefs and atolls it claims give it the right to exclusive access to waters that the Philippines consider to be within its own EEZ.

The ministry noted that Manila is mainly targeting reefs and atolls controlled by China in the South China Sea, and has not explicitly listed the legal status of the Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island, the largest of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, in its case.

But the Philippines has argued that none of the features in the Spratlys -- not even the largest among them -- is capable of generating entitlement to an EEZ or a continental shelf.

Manila has cited erroneous information several times to dismiss the fact that Taiping Island meets the conditions to be considered an island, according to the ministry.

The ministry said that President Ma Ying-jeou said recently after a visit to Taiping Island on Jan. 28 that if the island is downgraded to a "rock," it will only be possible to claim a 12-nautical mile territorial limit.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, "islands" are entitled to a 200-nautical-mile EEZ and a continental shelf, while a "rock" is entitled only to a 12-nautical-mile territorial limit.

The ministry said there is a possibility that the court could be misled by the Philippines into making a ruling unfavorable to the status of Taiping Island. The ministry said it has recently taken action to provide evidence that Taiping Island is fit for human habitation and is a true island.

Ma's visit was made to call to the court's attention that Taiping is indeed an island, the ministry said. (By Tai Ya-chen and Lilian Wu)

Updated : 2021-05-10 01:50 GMT+08:00