Manila halts infrastructure projects in South China Sea

06 Oct 2014 / 09:29 H.

    MANILA: The Philippines has put infrastructure projects on hold in territories in the disputed South China Sea in a bid to ease tensions in the region, a defence spokesman said today.
    The government has already allocated funds for the projects, including the repair of an airstrip, but all work has been postponed, said Peter Paul Galvez, a spokesman for the Department of National Defence.
    "We are doing this in good faith," he said.
    "We really want a peaceful resolution to everything, but of course, we will not back down on our claim because that's indeed part of the Philippines."
    The South China Sea straddles key shipping lanes and is believed to be rich in oil and minerals. China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam also have claims over parts of the sea.
    "We have always maintained that all parties do all they can to ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea, such as maintaining the status quo in all the islands," Galvez said, referring to the South China Sea by its Philippine name.
    In June, the Philippines called for a construction freeze in the South China Sea amid efforts to forge a code of conduct among its claimants.
    Manila said Beijing has been reclaiming land to expand its territories and even build an airstrip on the Philippine-claimed Johnson South Reef. Taiwan is also building a port on the island it occupies.
    The Philippine military has proposed the construction of lighthouses, radar stations and other facilities on islands and reefs occupied by the country to boost its claim.
    In January last year, the Philippines filed an arbitration case questioning China's claims to South China Sea territories before a UN tribunal in The Hague.

    The tribunal has given Beijing until Dec 15 to file a reply, but China has refused to participate in the arbitration. – dpa

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