China patrols off Palawan, builds basketball court in reef - report
Camille Diola (The Philippine Star) - August 6, 2013 - 11:20am

MANILA, Philippines - Chinese navy recently launched a new patrol route in West Philippine Sea and has turned Panganiban (Mischief) Reef into a naval outpost with a basketball court, a classified military document obtained by a Japan-based news agency on Monday reveals.

The report by Kyodo News said that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's South Sea Fleet established new surveillance pattern covering almost all contested territories including areas 85 nautical miles off Palawan, which China claims as within its "nine-dash line" practically covering the entire South China Sea.

"All other reefs, shoals and islands, including Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal, Reed (Recto) Bank and Mischief (Panganiban) Reef are, therefore, inside or covered by the patrol route," Kyodo News quoted the report as saying, referring to areas claimed by the Philippines as within its exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.

Panganiban Reef has been under China's de facto control since 1994 and has reportedly become its command center in the sea. It was also seen to have enhanced its presence near Ayungin last week.

Related: China boosts presence near reef

The document disclosed that Beijing's navy beefed up Panganiban to become a naval station complete with a helicopter landing pad, radar and satellite equipment, installations for anti-aircraft guns and machine guns, a three-story observation tower and also a basketball court.

The report added that China also added military facilities in Johnson South Reef (claimed by Vietnam), Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef, Subi (Zamora) Reef, Cuarteron (Calderon) Reef and Gaven Reef (claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines).

"Fiery Cross Reef is often used as harbor for the Yuting-class Landing Ship deployed in the (South China Sea)," the report says, adding that some of the outposts besides having basketball courts, solar panels and parapets also have 'covered nurseries'."

Zamora also now has concrete buildings and a military barracks, it says.

The Recto Bank, meanwhile, was found by an American agency to hold rich oil and gas reserves. Philippine firms' plans to explore the area have been delayed by the sea row.

'Volatile'

The report admitted that the new patrol route has made the situation in the dispute area "more volatile" since warships were deployed off Ayungin as early as February.

As the military report insists that at least two PLA frigates and a landing ship remain in the area to suggest "constant presence," it is meant to ensure that the Philippines is kept away from Ayungin.

The reef, it says, "gives the Philippines a sentry advantage in stopping other countries' occupation of features nearest to the Philippines."

"With these realities, our defense posture (in the south China Sea) remains to be reactive on developing situations," the military document says.

It also expressed full awareness in the Philippine Armed Forces' limited actions in the area, saying that its "defense assets are not sufficient to implement the required military actions" against China.

China has long complained of a grounded Philippine Navy vintage landing ship in Panganiban Reef, saying it has encroached in China's territory and offered to tow the vessel away.

AYUNGIN BANK AND MISCHIEF CHINA CHINA SEA KYODO NEWS PANGANIBAN PANGANIBAN REEF REEF SEA SOUTH CHINA SEA
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