Image credits: AP
The Philippines on April 1 said that it has discovered ‘illegally built structures on features in the Union Banks which is a series of reefs in the South China Sea. The structures are discovered near where Manila has already located a flotilla of Chinese fishes vessels that are allegedly manned by militias and gathered only recently.
As per CNN report, the Philippines military on Thursday said that the structures were spotted during the maritime patrols conducted on March 30. However, it did not give the exact location of the structures or any more details as to who was behind erecting them in the South China Sea. The Philippines military only said that the structures’ presence violated international law.
China has been previously accused of using its vast fishing fleet to help assert its territorial claims throughout the 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea. Reportedly, China has dismissed accusations of operations as an irregular naval force as groundless.
Reportedly Philippines Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said in a statement that “The Laws of the Sea gives the Philippines indisputable and exclusive rights over the area. These constructions and other activities, economic or otherwise, are prejudicial to peace, good order, and security of our territorial waters” and added, “These structures are illegal.”
Union Banks that the Philippines calls the Pagkakaisa Banks also has Whitsun Reef, called Julian Felipe Reef by Manila. The reef is actually a part of the Spratly Islands archipelago and is claimed by both the Philippines and China. The Philippines claims that it falls inside the country’s exclusive economic zone and even United Nations (UN) ruled in 2016 that China’s claim to virtually all of the South China Sea. however, China has refused to adhere to the recognition.
Apart from Whitsun Reef, China has unilaterally transformed all other reefs in the Spratly chain into man-made islands with substantial infrastructure and other military fortifications such as missiles. Meanwhile, the Philippines stresses that Whitsun Reef safeguards a lagoon where the country says over 200 fishing boats are allegedly operated by Chinese maritime militia.