PH urged to protest China’s ‘militarization’ in South China Sea
The Philippine government has been urged to file a diplomatic protest on China’s supposed militarization in the South China Sea.
Former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said Monday that the Philippines should not stay silent on China’s massive buildup in the strategic waterway.
Recent photos obtained by the Inquirer show how China had built extensively on its man-made islands in the Spratlys — constructing runways, radar facilities and other military installations. Some of the military vessels around the reefs were also photographed.
“These pictures confirm the militarization of the three artificial islands and should be a ground for filing a diplomatic protest of the violation of President Xi’s assurance last year that the artificial islands would not be militarized,” he said in a blog post.
Chinese President Xi Jinping had assured President Rodrigo Duterte that there will be no militarization in the South China Sea during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vietnam last November.
Based on the aerial photos obtained by Inquirer that were captured between June and November 2017, the runways of Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs appeared completed or almost ready for use. The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in 2016 that Panganiban is within the country’s exclusive economic zone and only the Philippines can build structures in it.
“[Panganiban] is inside our EEZ and thus a continuing violation of our EEZ. It is a threat to Palawan being only 130 miles away. A fighter jet deployed there can reach Palawan in around 15 minutes,” Golez said.
But he added that Subi is also a “big threat” as it is only 12 miles from Pagasa Island (Thitu Island), the largest Philippine-occupied area in the Spratly archipelago.
The presence of military ships in the photographs were also ‘very worrisome,’ according to the former security adviser.
“Especially #989 which can carry 500 to 800 troops, several dozen military vehicles and three Z-8 helicopters that can carry 27 troops. They are designed for rapid deployment and amphibious assault of islands like Pagasa,” he said, referring to the amphibious transport dock photographed at Panganiban Reef last Dec. 30. /je
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