“Designating the Scarborough Shoal area as a marine sanctuary would be a renewed claim by the Philippines to sovereignty over that area,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei. “Any unilateral actions that imply sovereignty are likely to cause friction between rival claimants, even if they are framed as marine conservation efforts.”

China has not weighed in. The foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said only that the Chinese claims to sovereignty over the shoal will not change. The marine sanctuary would need “at least tacit approval” from related claimants other than Manila to reduce South China Sea tensions, Spangler said.

Elsewhere in the South China Sea, Taiwan formed a national park nine years ago at Dongsha Atoll in the Pratas archipelago to regenerate coral. China claims the Pratas as well but has not overtly challenged Taiwan’s sanctuary.

http://www.voanews.com/a/philippine-marine-sanctuary-in-disputed-sea-risks-upsetting-china/3624705.html

From interview transcript:

“Designating the Scarborough Shoal area as a marine sanctuary would be a renewed claim by the Philippines to sovereignty over that area. Any unilateral actions that imply sovereignty are likely to cause friction between rival claimants, even if they are framed as marine conservation efforts.”