DFA lectures China: Your reclamation, PH airstrip upgrade different
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lectured China on the “big difference” between the Philippines’ plan to upgrade its facilities in islands in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea) and the reclamation work that China is doing to the reefs there.
“I would like to point out the big difference in what we are doing and what China is doing. What we are doing in our airstrip on Pag-asa island, it is the maintenance and repair work for the safety of our people there,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a press conference Thursday.
“We are not trying to change the nature or character of the maritime feature there. We are not doing reclamation work that could harm the environment. China, by its reclamation work that they are doing, they are trying to change the character of the maritime feature,” he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press conference last June 16 that the Philippines was making “provocative actions” when it announced plans to upgrade facilities in the Spratly Islands.
“The Philippines’ Defense Ministry announced that they would invest large sums of money to upgrade the airstrips and naval facilities on the Zhongye Island (Pag-asa Island). In January this year, the Philippines’ military officials again announced their plans to build a world-class airport on the so-called Kalayaan Island,” she said.
“The Philippine side, on the one hand, intentionally takes provocative actions while on the other hand makes irresponsible remarks on China’s legitimate actions which are within China’s sovereignty. That is unjustifiable. We call on the Philippine side to correct its erroneous actions … and stop provocations that would further aggravate and complicate the situation,” Hua said.
China further demanded for the Philippines to withdraw all its facilities and personnel in the Spratly islands, saying that these had been “illegally and forcefully occupied” since the 1970s.
DFA previously released a series of aerial photographs showing the progression of reclamation activities conducted by China on Mabini reef.
Jose previously said that these reclaimed artificial islands are likely foundations for “military purposes.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario expressed his intent to raise before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) the need for a moratorium on all activities in the disputed region to ease tensions.
In a separate interview, he also said that they are studying the possibility of filing a request before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos) to expedite the proceedings given that China has already expressed that it will not participate in the arbitration case.
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