CHINA on Monday asked the Philippines to respect its sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal after Manila’s coast guard reported a Chinese vessel’s close distance maneuver that risked a collision near the shoal.

“Huangyan Dao is China’s inherent territory,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wengbin said in reference to the shoal, according to a transcript of a press briefing posted on its website. “China has sovereignty over Huangyan Dao and its adjacent waters as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction over relevant water.”

“We hope that the Philippine ships will earnestly respect China’s sovereignty and rights and interests, abide by China’s domestic law and international law and avoid interfering with the patrol and law enforcement of the China Coast Guard in the above-mentioned waters,” he added.

The shoal, which the Philippines calls Panatag, is about 120 nautical miles (nm) west of Luzon island and within the Southeast Asian nation’s 200 nm exclusive economic zone.

China claims more than 80% of the South China Sea, which overlaps with the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines. Each year, trillions of dollars of trade flow through the sea, which is also rich in fish and gas.

The Philippine Coast Guard earlier called China’s close sail to Philippine ships a “clear violation of the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs had yet to respond to a WhatsApp message seeking comment. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan