China moving in other parts of West PH Sea: PNoy

Posted at 06/05/14 1:09 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) - President Benigno Aquino said Thursday that China has expanded its activities in other parts of the West Philippine Sea.

Speaking to reporters, Aquino said: "Iyung latest na report na natanggap natin, we are again bothered that there seems to be developments in other areas within the disputed seas."

The President said some Chinese ships were spotted in the area of Gavin Reef and Cuarteron (Calderon) Reef.

He said there are indications that the ships may be used for land reclamation.

"Yung pictures that I saw were just ships that can be used for reclamation. Pictures pa lang, ano, unlike Mabini na talagang from nothing nagkaroon na ng geographical feature," he said.

However, the Philippine Star reported in 2012 that Chinese troops have already built garrisons and outposts on the two reefs that President Aquino Monday.

The military garrisons and outposts inside the Philippines' exclusive economic zone are found on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef, Gavin Reef, Zamora (Subi) Reef, Chigua (Dong Men Jiao) Reef, and Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef).

Chinese fortresses and supply platforms were built by Chinese troops on Calderon and Gavin reefs, the report said. It added that the supply platforms have communications equipment, search radar, as well as naval guns and anti-aircraft guns.

The supply platforms on Calderon and Gavin reefs can also reportedly serve as docks for Chinese navy patrol boats.

In its arbitration case filed against China, the Department of Foreign Affairs said China can't claim Mischief Reef, McKennan Reef, Gavin Reef, Subi Reef, Scarborough Shoal, Johnson South Reef, Cuarteron Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef because these are just rocks and not islands.

Being rocks, the reefs have no territorial seas even if China builds bases on them, according to the DFA.

The reefs are inside the Philippines' 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

China also has a presence in the waters of Ayungin Shoal, where it chased off a Philippine Navy stocking mission.

Chinese ships have also been spotted near Mabini Reef, where it is reclaiming land, and other parts of the Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal.

The latest development comes amid rising tensions in the South China Sea between claimants like China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

China has refused to take part in the arbitration case that the Philippines has filed. Vietnam and other countries have expressed support for the arbitration process.

Aquino, however, is sticking to arbitration for now. He said he is hoping China will abide by international law, specifically the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

What happens next should the arbitration tribunal rule in the Philippines’ favor remains to be seen.

"Parang karapatan nila kung sasama sila o hindi. Inimbita natin sila na pumunta tayo rito para ma-resolve na nga natin na siguradong peaceful way of resolving the dispute. Ngayon, wala naman akong karapatan sigurong magsalita kung bakit ayaw nilang sumama dito sa method na manigurado tayong mapayapa ang pagreresolba ‘nung isyu diyan sa karagatan," Aquino said.

The United States has asked China not to escalate tensions.

The US and the Philippines just recently signed an enhanced defense cooperation agreement that will allow US forces greater access to Philippine bases. -- with a report from Philippine Star.