PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The Aquino administration has been sitting for two months on reports of increased Chinese military construction on islands within the country’s territory in the West Philippine Sea.
Defense sources in Palawan have told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the national government had been notified about the site development by China on at least two strategically important areas in the Spratly Islands, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef.
Both reefs are within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
Mischief Reef is fully built up and the Chinese are busy building on Subi Reef.
Reached for comment on Monday, Colonel Neil Estrella, spokesperson for the military’s West Command, said the military was aware of Chinese construction activities on Subi Reef.
He said a four-story building with a large dome-shaped radar on top was completed on the reef in May.
The Chinese, Estrella said, have also completed the construction of a helipad and the placement of buoys in a narrow channel to guide marine vessels into the reef’s inner lagoon, which is around 3.7 kilometers in diameter.
Subi Reef is near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island and is visible from Kalayaan Island on a clear day, according to Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon of Kalayaan town on that island.
Bito-onon confirmed observations of Chinese construction sites on Subi Reef. He said the Chinese had only recently removed the scaffolding on the tall building that had a radar on the roof.
Citing Filipino fishermen’s accounts, Bito-onon said construction on Subi was still going on.
“Filipino fishermen have been able to approach that island and they see what is going on there,” Bito-onon said.
“They would go there to barter their food supplies, including marine turtles, for Chinese goods,” he said.