THE Philippines on Thursday protested China’s creation of two new districts in the South China Sea because these are supposedly part of Philippine territory and sea zones.

“The Philippine government strongly protests the establishment of the so-called districts of Nansha and Xisha under the supposed administrative jurisdiction of its self-declared Sansha City announced on April 18, by the People’s Republic of China,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.

“It does not recognize Sansha, nor its constituent units, nor any subsequent acts emanating from them,” it added.

The Chinese government declared two new districts in Sansha City, which prompted Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. to file a diplomatic protest at the Chinese Embassy in Manila.

Rival Southeast Asian claimant nations and the United States have criticized China’s recent assertive moves in the disputed waterway as the world battles the coronavirus pandemic.

DFA also flagged the Chinese names given to some features in the Kalayaan Island Group.

The agency asked China to comply with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It also cited the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, particularly a clause asking parties to “exercise self-restraint” in conducting activities that will escalate disputes.

The United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Haque favored the Philippines in its lawsuit against China in 2016, rejecting the latter’s nine-dash line claim to most parts of the South China Sea.

Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel earlier slammed the plan to set up the districts on Paracel and Spratly Islands, accusing China of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic.

She had also asked the Philippine government to demand China to pay P200 billion worth of reef damages over its reclamation activities. — Charmaine A. Tadalan