Philippines protests China flight test on disputed reef
Says will lodge formal protest at test on newly completed runway in South China Sea

The Philippines has protested China's testing of a runway on one of seven disputed islands in the South China Sea, accusing Beijing on Monday of adding to tensions in the region.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it will lodge formal protest at a flight test on the newly completed runway in the disputed waters.

"We will file it in due course. Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef is part of our Kalayaan Island Group,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose told reporters in the Philippines' capital Manila.

China has defended its action, claiming the flight test was carried to ensure that the reef it now occupies and transformed into an artificial island with a runway, adheres to safety aviation standards.

On Saturday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing had deployed a "civil aircraft" on the island to determine whether the new airfield conformed to aviation standards.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea and has built man-made islands on seven reefs, including Fiery Cross, a move that has sparked tensions and triggered concerns among several nations, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, the United States and Japan.

"The test flight of China in Kagitingan has definitely raised tensions in the region,” the state-run Philippine News Agency quoted Jose as saying Monday.

"That’s the fear, that China will be able to take control of the South China Sea, and it will affect the freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight plus unimpeded flow of commerce.”

The protest follows a similar action by Vietnam last week, which said the test violated Hanoi’s sovereignty, and demanded that China stop such actions.

The Philippines refers to the South China Sea as the "West Philippine Sea", emphasizing that parts of the water fall under its exclusive economic zone as allowed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.

All claimants, except for Brunei, have stationed military troops in their claimed territories, said to be sitting atop huge oil and gas deposits.

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Last Modified: 2016-01-04 17:22:00
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