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PH aware of Chinese structures on disputed reefs, says Esperon

This combination photo of satellite images taken on Feb. 6, 2015, top, and March 23, 2015, bottom, by Airbus Defence and Space, and distributed by IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, shows what IHS Jane's describes as an airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef) in a disputed section of the South China Sea. The US has warned that China's development on the artificially created island could raise tensions in the area. (Photos from CNES, Airbus Defence and Space/IHS Jane's Defence Weekly via AP)

This combination photo of satellite images taken on Feb. 6, 2015, top, and March 23, 2015, bottom, by Airbus Defence and Space, and distributed by IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, shows what IHS Jane’s describes as an airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef) in a disputed section of the South China Sea. The US has warned that China’s development on the artificially created island could raise tensions in the area. (Photos from CNES, Airbus Defence and Space/IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly via AP)

Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr., national security adviser, said on Tuesday the government was well aware that China had nearly completed construction work on three reefs that the Philippines claims in the disputed South China Sea.

Esperon said the government had its own pictures of the Chinese construction work at Kagitingan, Zamora, and Panganiban Reefs, saying these were taken by the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

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Kagitingan is known internationally as Fiery Cross Reef, Zamora as Subi Reef, and Panganiban as Mischief Reef.

A day earlier, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), a US think thank, released satellite images of the construction work on the three reefs taken this month.

The AMTI is part of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies

“Indeed the airstrips of 3 to 3.5 kilometers are in place,” Esperon told reporters after attending a joint Senate hearing on the creation of a Benham Rise Development Authority. “There are radars. But will this be for military use? It could be.”

The AMTI said the nearly completed work on the three reefs could give China the ability to deploy combat aircraft and other military assets to the South China Sea.

Asked whether the nearly finished facilities on should be a cause for concern, Esperon, who served as AFP chief under the Arroyo administration, said: “Oh, yes. So what do you want us to do? Attack the facility?”

“Who will not be concerned if it’s for military use?” he added, when pressed further if this decelopemnt was cause for concern of the government.

Told on apprehensions that the constructed facilities in the reefs could deploy missiles there, he said there were no missiles yet in the facilities.

As on the likelihood that these facilities would be for military use, he said: “I don’t know. But it’s probable it may not be.”

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“It can be used for many other purposes,” he added. “ If these will not be for military use, this can be for civilian use.”

Esperon said it would be better to “wait what happens next” after the construction of these facilities had been completed..

He also said that the military was now repairing the airstrip in the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island. /atm

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TAGS: Chiinese structures in South China Sea, Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Kagitingan Reef, Maritime Dispute, Panganiban Reef, Zamora Reef
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