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Philippines enacts law claiming disputed islands

Philippines enacts law claiming disputed islands

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has signed a law defining Philippine territory, sparking protests from China and Vietnam over the control of strategic South China Sea islands, an official said Wednesday.
The legislation, signed Tuesday, reaffirms Philippine sovereignty over the more than 7,100 islands in its archipelago, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said. It also claims outlying islands in the Spratly chain and Scarborough Shoal _ two regions in the South China Sea.
China also claims sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, while both China and Vietnam have long-running claims in the Spratly Islands.
"We are sending the message to the whole world that we are affirming our national sovereignty ... our national interest," Ermita told a news conference.
After Congress passed the legislation last month, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Guangya summoned a Philippine Embassy official in Beijing and said Manila's claims over the two regions "were illegal and invalid," China's official Xinhua News Agency said.
It cited Wang as saying the Philippines should take into consideration bilateral relations as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Vietnam also has urged the Philippines to refrain from taking action that might complicate the dispute.
Foreign Affairs official Henry Bensurto said the Philippines passed the law not to reiterate its claims over the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal but to define the baseline used to determine its extended continental shelf.
The U.N. has asked the Philippines and other countries that signed the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea to submit the dimensions of their continental shelf by May 13. The convention, which came into force in 1994, defines the maritime limits of its signatories.
The Spratlys, believed to be rich in oil, gas and fish, consist of about 100 barren islets, reefs and atolls dotting the world's busiest shipping lanes in the South China Sea.
Vietnam, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei each claim all or part of the low-lying islands.


Updated : 2021-04-14 07:16 GMT+08:00