Task force steps up WPS watch amid reclamation by the Chinese

Task force steps up WPS watch amid reclamation by the Chinese

/ 05:50 AM May 14, 2024

west ph sea Chinese militia boats stand guard near the man-made island in Sabina Shoal. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO (Sept 26, 2023)

Chinese militia boats stand guard near the man-made island in Sabina Shoal. —Contributed photo

MANILA, Philippines — The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) is stepping up its watch of marine features in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) following traces of ongoing reclamation activities in one of the shoals, its spokesperson said on Monday.

Jonathan Malaya, National Security Council (NSC) assistant director general, said the task force had ordered the government to intensify patrols in all marine features within the Philippines’ 322-kilometer (200-mile) EEZ after the Philippine Coast Guard reported the alleged dumping of corals on Escoda (Sabina) Shoal, east of Palawan province.


READ: PCG sees signs of possible island – building in Escoda Shoal


“The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, led by Secretary (Eduardo) Año, has already directed intensified patrols on all features within the West Philippine Sea, within our 200-nautical mile (EEZ) because no other country has the right to guard it except [the Philippines],” he said.

The NSC, Malaya said, is alarmed by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) report on the recent reclamation activities in Escoda Shoal using crushed corals.

READ: Corals, cays in Pag-asa Island now degraded, UP biologist says


“When we received the report from the Philippine Coast Guard, (NSC) Secretary Eduardo Año directed that this be released in public in consonance with our transparency policy,” he said. “We will not conceal these recent developments in the Sabina Shoal.”

Citing the PCG report, Malaya said the reclamation activity was more alarming due to its proximity to the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Cays 1, 2 and 3 in the municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan.


READ: Dead, crushed corals cover sandbar near Pag-asa Island

“Again, crushed corals that are obviously [sourced] from another place are dumped there and now we are seeing it in Sabina Shoal,” he said.

PCG spokesperson Jay Tarriela told a press conference on Monday that the coast guard had to make sure it was able to prevent “China from carrying out a successful reclamation in Sabina Shoal.”

He said the PCG was committed to maintaining a presence in the shoal.

China has carried out extensive land reclamation on some islands in the South China Sea, building air force and other military facilities, causing concern in Washington and around the region.

Tarriela believed the PCG had been effective in deterring China from doing small-scale reclamation. It had not documented any activity from the Chinese vessels present in Sabina Shoal since it deployed its multirole response vessel there in mid April.

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“China does not want to get caught,” Tarriela said.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese Embassy in Manila on Tarriela’s remarks. —with a report from Reuters

TAGS: Eduardo Año, EEZ, NTF-WPS, PCG

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