MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines accused China on Wednesday, April 15, of using artificial islands to define the Asian giant's 9-dash line, a demarcation to claim virtually the entire South China Sea.
"We see these as unilateral aggressive activities on China's part, and not only are they using it to define the 9-dash line," Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in an interview on the news program Headstart on Wednesday, April 15.
"They feel that it will serve to undermine our case with the arbitral tribunal, because what they're tying to do is they're taking features and changing the character, the nature, and the maritime entitlements of these features," Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario did not detail how the artificial islands will define the 9-dash line, a U-shaped line that the Philippines wants an arbitral tribunal to declare as baseless under international law. (READ: 'No such thing as 9-dash line' – US envoy)
His comments came after a new set of satellite images, released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, showed the extent of China's reclamation in the South China Sea.
The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday, April 13, said China's reclamation has destroyed around 300 acres of coral reefs, and is estimated to lead to US$100 million in annual losses to coastal states.
The DFA also cited "growing international concern" over China's "massive reclamation activities" in the disputed waters, parts of which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea.
'Case vs China not affected'
US President Barack Obama himself warned that China shouldn't "elbow aside" countries, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, which China is in conflict with in the South China Sea.
The Philippines is pursuing a historic arbitration case against China before an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, The Netherlands.
Vietnam supports this case through a position paper filed with the arbitral tribunal. (READ: PH to tribunal: Vietnam boosts case vs China)
In his interview on Headstart, Del Rosario pointed out that the reclamation will not affect the arbitration process.
Del Rosario explained that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the so-called Constitution for the Oceans, "will not look at what's there now, but what it was before they built these features."
The Philippines expects a ruling on the case by 2016.
In the meantime, the Philippines is appealing for international sympathy.
On Tuesday, April 14, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III told Agence France-Presse that China's actions "should engender fear for the rest of the world."
Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, for his part, called for a "joint venture" between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea. Eyeing the presidency in 2016, Binay said, "China has money, we need capital." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.