MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines said on Thursday it would resume repair and reconstruction works in the disputed South China Sea after halting activities last year over concerns about the effect on an arbitration complaint filed against China.
Manila had called on all countries last October to stop construction work on small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, virtually all of which is claimed by China.
China itself is undertaking massive reclamation works in the area, while Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam have also been making improvements to their facilities.
“We are taking the position that we can proceed with the repair and maintenance,” Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario told diplomats, military officers and foreign correspondents on Thursday.
He said the works, including repairs to an airstrip, did not violate an informal code of conduct in the South China Sea because they would not alter the status quo in the disputed area. The 2002 code was signed by China and 10 Southeast Asian states in Phnom Penh.
In 2013, Manila filed an arbitration case at the The Hague questioning Beijing’s “nine-dash-line” claims. Del Rosario said Manila expects a decision in February next year. China has elected not to participate in the case.
China claims almost the entire sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim the area, where about $5 trillion of seaborne trade pass every year.
Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Jeremy Laurence