By Michaela Del Callar
The Philippines has protested China's establishment of a new city that covers the South China Sea nearly in its entirety, including territories under Manila's sovereign jurisdiction.
Philippine foreign officials summoned Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing Wednesday and handed her Manila's diplomatic protest.
The note verbale said "the establishment of Sansha city as the extent of the jurisdiction of the city violates Philippine territorial sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc and infringes on Philippine sovereign rights over the waters and continental shelf of the West Philippine Sea."
This is the latest in the territorial rift between Manila and Beijing, preceded by a two-month standoff over the Scarborough Shoal, known locally as Bajo de Masinloc.
The standoff ended when President Benigno S. Aquino III pulled out two Philippine government ships two weeks ago, citing bad weather.
China is claiming the shoal, 124 nautical miles off the northwestern Philippine town of Masinloc in Zambales.
The shoal is 472 nautical miles from China's nearest landmass in Hainan province.
The Philippines and China have also disputed ownership of some parts of the resource-rich South China Sea that includes the eight Philippine-claimed territories it calls Kalayaan Group of Islands.
In its note verbale, Manila said the declaration of the establishment of Sansha City "contradicts the spirit of the conduct of parties in the South China Sea."
This has reference to a non-binding code of conduct urging all claimants to exercise restraint and stop new occupation in the area.
"The Philippines reiterates in that note verbale that the KIG and Bajo de Masinloc and the waters and continental shelf around them form an integral part of the Philippine territory and maritime jurisdiction," Hernandez said.
China virtually claims the whole of South China Sea and West Philippine Sea to Manila, and the cluster of rocky outcrops and atolls further south called the Spratlys.
Others that have competing territorial claims over the vast sea are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
KIG and the Scarborough are well within Manila's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone as outlined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).