THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has expressed serious concern over the reported construction and reclamation activities of China in the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

“The Department takes note of the Bloomberg article on reported reclamation activities by China in unoccupied features of the Spratlys. We are seriously concerned as such activities contravene the Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea’s undertaking on self-restraint and the 2016 Arbitral Award,” the DFA said in a statement.

The department is referring to the Bloomberg article initially published on December 20 and updated on December 21, saying that China is building up in at least four unoccupied features in Spratlys including the Lankiam Cay or Panata Reef that is being claimed by the Philippines.

It said reclamation activities were also being conducted in Eldad Reef in the northern Spratlys, Lankiam Cay, Whitsun Reef and Sandy Cay, where “some sand bars and other formations in the area expanded more than 10 times in size in recent years.”

The DFA said it has already tapped concerned government agencies to validate the information.

In 2019, the Philippines won against China against its claims within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line, which is over 90 percent of the WPS, before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands.

China refused to recognize the ruling, which affirmed the traditional and legitimate fishing rights of Filipino fishermen in the area.

Inn November, the DFA sent a note verbale to China in relation to the incident in Pag-asa Island in the WPS where Chinese Coast Guard personnel allegedly forcibly took rocket debris recovered by Filipino troops while floating off Pagasa Island in Palawan.

The Chinese embassy in Manila denied the claims, saying that the debris was returned to them after a “friendly consultation.”

Defense chief Jose Faustino Jr. defended his men as he stood by their report that Chinese authorities took the debris in a rude manner.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is set to visit China in January where he is expected to meet China President Xi Jinping and discuss various concerns, including the disputed waters off WPS. (SunStar Philippines)