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Remove illegal structures in SCS

(UPDATE) THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday called on China to remove all illegal structures it constructed in the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (SCS) and cease reclamations in the area.

DFA spokesman Ma. Teresita Daza also said China should «be accountable» for the damage caused by its illegal activities in the SCS.

Daza made the statement to dismiss the claim made by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin last November 10 that the Philippines «grounded» BRP Sierra Madre in Ren'ai Jiao or Ayungin Shoal «in an attempt to permanently occupy» Ren'ai Jiao.

China claimed that Ren'ai Jiao is part of its territory as China Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militia boats tried to prevent Philippine vessels from conducting resupply missions to Filipino troops on board the beached rusting BRP Sierra Madre.

Daza recalled that in 1995, when the Philippines protested the construction of a structure in Mischief Reef, China promised that it was only a «fisherman's shelter» and would remain as such. «The reef is now a militarized artificial island.» «So are Calderon Reef, also known as Cuarteron Reef; Kagitingan Reef, also known as Fiery Cross Reef; Burgos Reefs, also known as Gaven Reefs; McKennan Reef, also known as Hughes Reef; Johnson Reef; and Zamora Reef, also known as Subi Reef. Let us not forget that,» she stressed. «We call on China to remove all these illegal structures, cease reclamations in the South China Sea, and be accountable for the damage caused by these illegal activities,» Daza said.

«We are being asked to give prior notification each time we conduct a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal. We will not do so. The resupply missions are legitimate activities within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone), in accordance with international law,» the DFA official added.

The BRP Sierra Madre, she said, was permanently stationed in Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as a «constant Philippine government presence» in the area.

This was in response to China's «illegal occupation» in 1995 of Panganiban Reef, also known as Mischief Reef. Panganiban Reef is a «low-tide elevation that forms part of our continental shelf and is within our EEZ,»