New ‘reclamation’ just rumors, says China; PCG sneers at denial

New ‘reclamation’ just rumors, says China; PCG sneers at denial

New ‘reclamation’ just rumors, says China; PCG sneers at denial

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin. —file photo from Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse via China Daily/Asia News Network

MANILA, Philippines — China has dismissed as “sheer rumor” the recent statements of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that Beijing may again be building artificial islands in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

The PCG over the weekend reported the discovery of piles of dead and crushed corals dumped on the sandbars around Escoda (Sabina) Shoal, taking them as fresh signs of land reclamation in the West Philippine Sea.

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The PCG has deployed a vessel, the BRP Teresa Magbanua, to the shoal located some 75 nautical miles (139 kilometers) off the coast of Palawan. The Philippine Navy has also stationed a warship in Escoda as a deterrent to further reclamation activities.

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READ: AFP: Suspected ‘reclamation’ by China in Escoda Shoal deterred

“The accusation of ‘China’s reclamation’ at Xianbin Jiao is sheer rumor spread by the Philippines, which is an irresponsible claim designed to vilify China and mislead the international community,” said Wang Wenbi, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, using the Chinese name for Escoda Shoal.

“China urges the Philippines to stop making irresponsible remarks, face up to the facts and return to the right track of properly handling maritime disputes through negotiation and consultation,” Wang said in a press conference in Beijing on May 13.

An English translation of Wang’s statement was released by the Chinese Embassy on Wednesday.

Why so many vessels?

Reacting to Wang, Commodore Jay Tarriela, spokesperson of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, said: “We know they are quick to deny and belie [our discovery]. So I don’t take their response seriously.”

“The next question [to ask them] is, what’s the reason behind the Chinese Coast Guard vessels? Why are there so many maritime militia vessels?” he added during a briefing on Wednesday.

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As to the Chinese research vessels also sighted in Escoda, Tarriela said: “I don’t know if they’re scientists, [but] how can they be able to explain the dumped corals?”

“Our transparency strategy has always been founded on the truth… everything that we release has proof,” he stressed, referring to the photos and videos of coral rubble.

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According to Tarriela, reclaiming land in Escoda would be a strategic move for Chinese forces since it would make it “easier” for them to harass Philippine resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal. Escoda serves as a rendezvous point for such missions.

TAGS: Ayungin Shoal, BRP Sierra Madre, Escoda Shoal, PCG, West Philippine Sea

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