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China building triangle of bases, warns Carpio

05:17 AM October 02, 2015
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DISPUTED REEF Photo from the air shows construction activities undertaken by China on Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), including an airstrip, in a disputed area in the South China Sea. The Philippines and China are among several countries disputing ownership of the reefs located on the Spratly Islands. PHOTO BY VICTOR ROBERT LEE AND DIGITALGLOBE

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio called on the nation Thursday to make the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China an issue in next year’s national elections as Beijing continued to build a “a triangle of military bases” in the South China Sea.

Carpio said “the triangle of military bases,” which include Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) off Zambales province, was aimed at protecting Beijing’s outlet in Bashi Channel, an important passage for military operations between Hainan, China’s southernmost territory, and Taiwan.

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Speaking to members of the Rotary Club of Manila in Makati City, Carpio disclosed what he called a “long-term grand design” of China to enforce its claims in the South China Sea.

“They have their nuclear submarines stationed on the island (Hainan),” Carpio said, stressing the importance of the base to the protection of the Bashi Channel.

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He said China had strategic bombers and weapons for long-range attack.

“The range of those missiles is 7,500 kilometers,” Carpio said.

“All the US military facilities [in the region] are within the range of those missiles,” he said.

Carpio also spoke about how China had been trying to make the artificial islands it had built in the South China Sea possible command centers for its so-called Maritime Silk Road, an ambitious economic plan.

He cited Zamora Reef (Subi Reef), which is located 29 kilometers southwest of Philippine-claimed Pagasa Island (Thitus Island) in the Spratlys.

China has reclaimed 150 hectares at Zamora Reef and turned it into a naval base with an airstrip, he said.

“This is in the high seas. China is converting it into a military base, naval base with a 3-kilometer [airstrip]. It can take in any military aircraft,” Carpio  said.

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Some 560 hectares of the 800-hectare Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) have been reclaimed, he said.

“Remember, Mandaluyong is only 400 hectares,” he said.

Once China has a naval base on Panganiban Reef, he said, it can prevent the Philippines from supplying other islands in the Spratlys it occupies.

Carpio said China’s land reclamation in the Spratlys had damaged reefs that had taken 30 million years to be formed.

“China destroyed them [in just] a year… It is unimaginable,” he said.

“Should we allow China to rob us and deprive us of what international laws guarantee us?” he asked.

The Philippines has challenged China’s claim to nearly all of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea in a United Nations arbitration court.

China, however, has refused to take part in the arbitration and said it will not accept any ruling from the court.

Carpio urged the people to make the territorial dispute with China a campaign issue in next year’s national elections.

“Our candidates should [state] their positions on the matter. It is very important because what is at stake is 80 percent of the exclusive economic zone and 100 percent of our continental shelf,” he said.

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