China hastening work on reclamation projects in disputed waters–DFA
MANILA, Philippines – China is working double time on their reclamation projects in the South China Sea in order to complete their expansion agenda before the arbitration case is concluded, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday.
“DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario has mentioned that these activities are now being hastened in anticipation of the arbitral decision and the conclusion of the legally binding Code of Conduct,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a briefing Friday.
“That’s why they are trying to actualize or realize their expansionist agenda in the South China Sea before these two things happen,” he said.
Japanese news agency NHK recently reported that China has built military facilities on several disputed reefs in the Spratly Group of Islands where they have done land reclamation.
They showed aerial photographs obtained from Philippine military sources showing the development of helicopter landing pads, radar facilities, and even machine gun platforms.
“The photos of Mischief Reef taken in April show solar panels, radar facilities, and what look like machine guns. They show that the facilities have been modernized and more militarized over the past 4 years,” the report said.
“Photos of Fiery Cross Reef show a heliport and what look like agricultural greenhouses and gun platforms. On Subi Reef, a white spherical object believed to be a large radar facility can be seen,” it said.
The DFA has previously showed a series of aerial photographs showing the progression of the reclamation work China has undertaken from 2012 up to early 2014.
This latest development in China’s reclamation however was seen as “quite significant.”
“When we released the pictures in May, we were able to show the progress of the reclamation work starting 2012 up to 2014. We were not surprised to see in a matter of months they have progressed quite significantly,” Jose said.
“The reclamation work causes massive disruption of the marine environment,” he added.
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including portions of the Philippines exclusive economic zone in the western seaboard, as part of its territory through its nine-dash line claim.
The Philippines has challenged China’s claim before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) but China has repeatedly refused to participate in the proceedings insisting it has “indisputable sovereignty.”
Currently, China has been able to maintain an “overwhelming presence” in the South China Sea and has repeatedly used force to drive away Filipino fishermen, as well as those from other Southeast Asian countries, away from the region.