Philippines protests to China over oil rig plan

MANILA, June 2, 2011 (AFP) - The Philippines said Wednesday it had formally protested to Beijing over recent activity in disputed waters of the South China Sea and Chinese plans to anchor an oil rig there.

China's charge d'affaires in Manila was summoned to the foreign ministry on Tuesday to hear the government's concerns over actions by the Chinese military in the South China Sea, a ministry statement said.

AFP - In a handout photo taken by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs on May 21, 2011 and released on, a Chinese salvage and research ship is shown anchored in disputed South China Sea waters near the major Philippine island of Palawan

The foreign ministry said it "requested clarification from the Chinese embassy on the recent sightings of a China Marine Surveillance vessel and other People's Liberation Army Navy ships".

It said it was acting on information from the Philippine military, which reported that the Chinese vessels unloaded building materials, erected an undetermined number of posts, and placed a buoy.

The ministry said it had on Friday conveyed to Chinese embassy officials its concern over reports in Chinese state media about Beijing's plans to install its most advanced oil rig in the South China Sea next month.

"During this meeting, the (foreign ministry) asked the Chinese embassy for the exact planned location of the mega oil rig and pointed that it should not be placed in Philippine territory or its waters," it added.

The buoy had been placed near the Amy Douglas Bank, which was was "well within the Philippines' 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone", it said.

The Philippine side said the posts and buoy were about 26 nautical miles from Flat Island, one of the outcrops in the Spratlys archipelago occupied by the Philippines, and 125 nautical miles from the Philippine island of Palawan.

"In both meetings, the Philippines and China reiterated their respective commitment to the maintenance of peace and stability in the area, and to work together to maintain good bilateral relations," the statement said.

Chinese embassy spokesmen were not answering their phones Wednesday, but China is known to claim all of both the Spratly and the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea as well as their adjacent waters.

Any construction in the area violated a 2002 agreement signed by China and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said.

The agreement commits the parties -- excluding Taiwan, which was not a signatory -- to respecting freedom of navigation in the area, exercising restraint, and to resolving their territorial disputes without resort to the threat or use of force.

The alleged incidents occurred just before a visit to Manila by Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie last week, when he and his Filipino counterpart pledged to avoid "unilateral actions" that could inflame tensions in the area.

In March, the Philippines complained that Chinese patrol boats had harassed a Philippine oil exploration vessel in disputed waters near the Spratlys.

It subsequently filed a formal protest at the United Nations over China's claims to the Spratly islands and adjacent South China Sea waters.

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