"--IANS/EFE "
Manila, May 14 - The Philippines government Wednesday accused China of starting infrastructure construction on an island of the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.

China and the Philippines are in dispute over this territory which has oil and gas reserves.

Paul Galvez, spokesperson of the Philippine defence ministry, told media that China was carrying out activities of territory reclamation or earthmoving on the Johnson reef, a part of Spratly, the portal Rappler said.

Although there are buildings on the isle, Galvez said that new construction activities have been observed in the first few months of the year.

In February this year we observed that the infrastructure began expanding, he added.

China and other member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -, including the Philippines, signed the Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea in November 2002.

This agreement prohibits any type of construction in the disputed territories.

A complaint by the Philippines further strained relations between both the countries.

The complaint came two days after Manila formally accused and arrested nine Chinese sailors May 6 of hunting more than 500 turtles, a protected species in the waters of the Philippines.

Thus Manila ignored Beijing's appeal, which demanded that Philippines release the arrested people and asked for rational explainations about what happened in the South China Sea.

Hua Chunying, spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, said that they have indisputable sovereignty rights over Spratly archipelago -.

Brunei, China, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam claim total or partial ownership of the Spratly Islands, a region rich in marine and energy resources.

Manila is in full territorial dispute with Beijing over various islands in the South China Sea, where various incidents between fishermen and naval forces of both countries have occured.

Bilateral confrontation further intensified when the Philippines presented a petition March 30 before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to make a decision, a process which China denied to be a part of.

This weekend, the ASEAN called for restraint and dialogues in the sovereignty conflict with China in the region, but avoided presenting a common front against Beijing as proposed by the Philippines and Vietnam.

--IANS/EFE

ab/


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