MANILA, SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Pia Lee-Brago - There was no renaming of the South China Sea, only of areas covered by the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) clarified on Friday.

[PHOTO - Reed Bank, West Philippines Sea, Province of Palawan, Philippines]

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said the naming of the western side of the Philippines’ EEZ as the West Philippine Sea is an exercise of the country’s “inherent right” to identify and name the areas within its maritime domain.

He stressed that this action is consistent with Philippine and international laws, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“We are just naming that portion of the South China Sea which we consider ours and this is provided for by international law, specifically UNCLOS,” Hernandez told reporters.

[The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) guaranteed 200 Nautical Mile Economic Zone for the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. UNCLOS did not show any China’s territory in the West Philippines Sea’s Spratlys. China’s limit is only until Paracel islands. The Philippines recorded already 6 invasions by China to the West Philippine Sea as of June 16, 2011.]

“We are just naming those areas that we consider and are indisputably considered ours, and those are the maritime areas that includes Luzon Sea, the waters around, within and adjacent to the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and also Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag Shoal),” he added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said on Thursday that the Philippines’ “renaming” of the South China Sea would not affect China’s sovereignty over Nansha (Spratlys) Islands and Panatag Shoal, which the Chinese call Huangyan Island.

Lei said the name South China Sea has long been universally recognized and widely accepted by international organizations such as the UN.

[PHOTO -Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario: “Since the freedom of navigation and unimpeded commerce in the West Philippine Sea are of great importance to many nations, all should consider what China is endeavoring to do in the Scarborough Shoal in order to pursue its so-called full sovereign rights over the entire West Philippine Sea on the basis of a nine-dash line claim, using a historical record that’s clearly baseless,”]

US lawmakers have accused China of bullying its neighbors to press its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“Maybe that is their perception that the actions of some claimants in the West Philippine Sea have been too aggressive that they would perceive it as bullying,” Hernandez said. “Just to be certain, the nine-dash line claim of China is considered as an excessive claim and has no basis in international law, so that’s the reason why we continue to reiterate that Bajo de Masinloc and also the KIG are our sovereign territory,” he said.

China announced on Wednesday that it would mark up protected zones for its territorial sea base points in a move to “ensure its maritime interests.”

President Aquino on Sept. 5 issued Administrative Order 29 directing the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) to “produce and publish charts and maps of the Philippines reflecting the West Philippine Sea.”

Aquino, through AO 29, also directed the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education and state universities “to issue circulars requiring the use of said official Philippine maps in relevant subjects, researches and instructional materials, such as, among others, textbooks, and audio-visual presentations.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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