AFP chief to China: Stop reclamation works in South China Sea
CHINA’S reclamation activities on Mischief (Panganiban) Reef in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) will threaten the defense of the Philippines in the disputed territory, military chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang said.
“If Mischief Reef is reclaimed we will have a problem. They will threaten all our islands including Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal,” he said in a press conference at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
The military chief also called on China to stop its reclamation activities.
“We call on China to stop the reclamation activities and to be mindful of its responsibilities as a claimant state and an important member of the international community,” he said.
The Philippines claims nine islands in the Spratlys in the South China Sea. The islands form the Kalayaan Island Group or KIG.
The AFP chief showed the latest photos of the reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Only recently, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies released photos of the significant developments in the Mischief Reef.
Artificial land formation, new structures, fortified seawalls and construction equipment could be seen in the photos.
“The reclamation will threaten all our defenses and this is the issue we are trying to address,” Catapang said.
“We are really amazed at the pace China is reclaiming the area. It’s fast. We are really in a very difficult situation,” Catapang said.
“We have compelling reasons to raise our voice to tell the world of the adverse effects of China’s aggressiveness,” the AFP chief said.
He said China’s activities have “created tensions not only among the countries who have overlapping claims in the area, but also among the countries around the world who use the international sea lanes in the South China Sea for trade and commerce.”
The reclamation activities might cause tension because it could deter freedom of navigation.
Next: Ayungin Shoal
A looming concern for the military, Catapang noted, would be Ayungin Shoal, which he said would be put in a vulnerable position.
A dozen Marines are stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre, an old military transport ship marooned on Ayungin as a symbol of Philippine sovereignty.
“I think the Ayungin troops are safe this time,” Catapang said.
He however added, “As soon as the reclamation is finished … they (Chinese) might populate the area with lots of ships—not only Coast Guard ships but also military ships.”
Catapang said this could “militarize” the territory and “create tension.
The military chief said the Department of Foreign Affairs is taking the lead in internationalizing the issue.
For its part, the AFP continue to monitor Chinese activities and developments in the disputed seas. AC
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