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Philippines Seeks U.N. Recognition of Continental Shelf in South China Sea Amidst China’s Aggression

The Department of Foreign Affairs announced on June 15, 2024, that the Philippines has requested the United Nations to formally recognize its continental seabed in the South China Sea, granting it exclusive rights to exploit resources. This move directly challenges China’s aggressive territorial claims in the region.

After over 15 years of scientific research, the Philippine government submitted detailed information to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. This region includes the Spratlys, a group of islands, reefs, and atolls hotly contested by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. Indonesia has also had confrontations with Chinese vessels in the Natuna Sea.

Assistant Secretary Marshall Louis Alferez emphasized the importance of the seabed resources, stating, “The seabed and subsoil extending from our archipelago hold significant potential resources that will benefit our nation for generations.”

The Philippines’ claim is based on the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which allows coastal states exclusive rights to resources within their continental shelf, extending up to 350 nautical miles. This claim could overlap with other states’ claims, such as Vietnam’s, but Philippine officials are open to negotiations under UNCLOS guidelines.

Philippine representative to the U.N., Antonio Lagdameo, believes this move will encourage states to adhere to UNCLOS and promote a rules-based international order.

Tensions in the South China Sea have escalated, mainly due to China’s aggressive actions. Chinese coast guard and suspected militia vessels have used powerful water cannons and dangerous blocking maneuvers against Philippine ships, leading to injuries, damaged vessels, and strained diplomatic relations.

In 2013, the Philippines brought its disputes with China to international arbitration, resulting in a 2016 ruling invalidating China’s claims to nearly the entire South China Sea. Despite this, China rejected the ruling and continues to defy it.

The Philippines’ latest move aims to assert its rights and ensure future resource exploitation within its recognized continental shelf amidst ongoing Chinese aggression in the region.


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