Wescom denies Chinese marker buoys placed in Reed Bank
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY – The Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (Wescom) on Thursday denied a wire report claiming China has placed marker buoys in the Reed Bank, an area in the disputed Spratlys region closest to the Philippines and considered to have a major oil and natural gas deposit.
Wescom spokesperson Captain Cheryl Tindog, in a statement this morning (Thursday), categorically denied the story first published by Reuters early this week.
“The reported presence of buoys with Chinese markings is inaccurate. Our recent patrols in the reported area revealed that there were no such buoys nor Chinese markers. Western Command remains vigilant and continues to conduct maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement said.
The Reuters report quoted an unnamed source stating that a Philippine fishing vessel found the marker buoys with Chinese markings and event attempted to remove it but decided instead to flee when a Chinese patrol appeared in the horizon.
The Reed Bank, located within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), lies some 90 nautical miles off the Palawan mainland and is considered to contain a major natural gas reserve, which is much bigger than the existing Camago Malampaya gas field just further north of it.
Earlier last week, Wescom commander Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez explained in a public briefing in Puerto Princesa City that the government believes China is ultimately eyeing to take control of the Reed Bank.
“China’s most likely next step is not to develop Scarborough (the area off Zambales taken over by Chinese patrol boats after a standoff with the Philippines over a year ago). “They are looking at Reed Bank,” Lopez said.
In 2011, Chinese naval patrols harassed a government drilling ship at Reed Bank, prompting the Philippine Navy to deploy a naval vessel in the area and allow the Philippine National Oil Company Exploration Corp. (PNOC) drilling ship to complete its survey.
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