AFP has no proof of China ‘reclamation’ in Scarborough Shoal
There is no evidence yet that China is reclaiming the Scarborough shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
AFP Chief of Staff Hernando Iriberri said there was no indication of Chinese activities on the shoal based on the latest monitoring report provided by the military.
Iriberri visited the Western Command (Wescom) in Palawan, which is in charge of monitoring the situation in the WPS, last Saturday.
He stressed he was just making a customary visit as the new AFP chief and should not be misconstrued as provoking China.
Iriberri said the Chinese government, on the other hand, has been consistently showing to the media its ongoing reclamations in the seven reefs in the South China Sea.
China is building artificial islands at Kagitingan Reef (international name: Fiery Cross Reef), Calderon Reef (Cuarteron Reef) Burgos Reef (Gaven Reef), Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef), McKeenan Reef (Hughes Reef), Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) and Zamora Reef (Subi Reef)—all in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ 370-kilometre exclusive economic zone (EEZ) recognised under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
He dismissed reports of possible Chinese reclamation in Scarborough shoal.
Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said he hoped China would not begin reclamation activities in Scarborough shoal considering that the Philippines has already file a maritime dispute complaint
before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in The Hague, Netherlands.
Supreme Court senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has discussed China’s grand plan in the South China Sea in a recent forum on the issue conducted at the Department of National Defense.
Padilla said the AFP would rather wait for the ITLOS decision.
He said that by seeking arbitration, the country proved that it was adhering to the established process of settling maritime disputes among countries.
“We are not looking for trouble. We are a peace-loving nation,” Padilla said.
“That’s why in our Constitution, it says we renounce war as an instrument of policy and the AFP being the protector of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country conforms to that principle,” he stressed.
On the United States government’s statement that China was not listening to international pressure, Iriberri said the US must have its own reasons for saying so.
China’s defense ministry has accused the US of “militarizing” the South China Sea by staging patrols and joint military drills there with other claimant countries.
Padilla said the fact that China was submitting its response to the Philippine complaint in the ITLOS was an indication that it was listening.
He said he believed that China was also calculating the reactions of her neighbors to the issue.
“That is why we need to keep on encouraging other countries… hopefully, there will be one collective voice that will talk about this issue so that united with one voice, we hope to influence our neighbour to follow a procedure that is recognized by all peace-loving nations,” Padilla said.
Meanwhile, the AFP’s posture in the WPS would be to “watch … monitor and … report this without being confrontational.”
Padilla acknowledged that the AFP has not built the capability to prevent any kind of construction activities by China in the disputed waterways.
While waiting for the ITLOS to assume jurisdiction over the Philippine case against China, the AFP would continue to bring the issue to the Filipinos and other nations to encourage more voices to support the Philippine position, he added.
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