Philippines behind other Spratlys claimants in building defensive structures
MANILA, Philippines—The House of Representatives will investigate reports that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has not fully developed fortifications to protect the Philippines’ claims to the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
House Resolution No, 1249, filed by Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez and his brother, Abante Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, quoted the AFP as having said that other claimant countries such as China, Vietnam and Malaysia have strengthened fortifications on the islets and shoals in the Spratlys, leaving behind the Philippine military in terms of developing such structures in the disputed islands.
“There is a need to look into this issue in order to ensure that the claims of the Philippines over the Spratlys be respected and our jurisdiction over said islands is not ignored and trampled upon by our neighbors in Asia,” Rufus Rodriguez said.
Two other claimants – Brunei and Taiwan – have not established structures there.
Spratlys are small and remote islands with rich fishing grounds and significant reserves of oil and natural gas.
Rodriguez said that from one islet it began occupying in 1984, Malaysia now has troops on five islets, including the Swallow Reef, where there is now a 1,200-meter runway that can accommodate heavy civilian and military transport planes as well as a naval station.
He said that surveillance photos taken during routine patrols over the Philippine-occupied Kalayaan Group showed Beijing’s steady military build-up in the area, which included different machine gun emplacement as well as additional communications antennae and naval vessels anchored on Chigua Reef.
Also, China’s military developments were also monitored in Cuarteron Reef, while Fiery Cross is serving as communications and oceanographic research center and it has also intensified its military activities indicating improving military capabilities.
On the other hand, Vietnam has made impressive improvements on their occupied islands, with new communication equipment in Sin Cow (Rurok Island) installed in 2010, the presence of single story buildings in Allison Reef and in other sites such as Barque Canada Reef, Discovery Great Reef, Petley Reef, Pigeon Reef, and East Reef. New buildings have also sprouted on the Namyit Island and numerous structures, including bunkers, were being detected in Central London Reef, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the Philippines’ makeshift structures, with depleted personnel and soldiers to defend the Philippine-held territories, stood no chance against the firepower of other claimants in the event of a shooting war.
He also said the AFP Western Command (Wescom) based in Palawan, which has operational jurisdiction over the Spratlys, had requested urgent repairs of the runway on Pagasa Island, the biggest of several islands with Filipino troops, since the airfield had not undergone repairs since its establishment in 1970.
Quoting Wescom officials, Rodriguez said the repair and rehabilitation of Rancudo Air Field must be done as soon as possible so as not to allow soil erosion to inflict further damage on the runway.
“Repairs should be configured in such a way that it can accommodate heavy transport aircraft as well as fighter planes comparable to that in Lagos Island of the Vietnamese and Swallow Reef of Malaysia,” Rodriguez said.
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