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China’s reef reclamation in full swing

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Aside from a newly established islet at the reclaimed Mabini (Johnson South) Reef, China’s reclamation projects are also in full swing on three more reefs within the Philippines’ Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the disputed Spratlys archipelago.

In a territorial aerial monitoring conducted recently, security officials saw that China’s reclamation activities were ongoing at the Burgos (Gaven) Reef, Kennan (Chigua) Reef and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef.

“While our political leaders are busy squabbling, out there in the West Philippine Sea we are slowly losing our very territorial domain to China’s creeping invasion,” said a security official, who blamed the leadership’s long-time neglect in addressing the country’s territorial issues.

Burgos Reef

In May, it was initially monitored that a small structure was built at Burgos Reef. After just one month, the entire area was reclaimed with several vessels and barges being used by China in establishing an artificial islet out of the outcrop.

Last month, it was monitored that a kite-like islet has already come out of the reef with concrete breaker reinforcement.

“Notable is the presence of materials for constructing breakers plus a grab dredger and split hopper for transferring dredged sand to other parts of the sea,” a post-territorial monitoring flight report reads.

Kennan Reef

At Kennan Reef – an area between Sin Cowe Islet and Sin Cow East Reef, two areas being occupied by Vietnamese forces in the disputed region – Chinese reclamation activities were monitored on what used to be an obscure outcrop.

Last April, the Chinese were monitored to be dredging waterways in the area to deepen the approaches toward Kennan Reef, using the excavated materials composed of corals, sand and rocks.

Three months later, China was able to establish a golf cub-like artificial islet with several structures including a helipad. Heavy equipment like bulldozers, backhoe, cranes and supply ships were also monitored and believed to be constructing a cemented airfield nearby.

Aerial monitoring conducted last June 29 found an increase in Chinese activities in the area, most noticeable of which was an increased number of construction equipment and materials and shipping containers being used as workers’ shelter.

Calderon Reef

In May, the military’s air territorial patrol monitored the presence of a number of Chinese vessels in the vicinity of Calderon Reef. Located further south near Malaysian waters, Calderon Reef is still part of the KIG and within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

But aerial photographs taken on July 29 show ongoing development in the reef, which has already increased in land area with a semi-enclosed marina.

Mabini Reef

At Mabini Reef, which has been fully reclaimed by China, Chinese activities are now shifting to the construction of structures, including a blue building with newly planted palm trees on its front lawn.

Heavy equipment and files of construction materials like steel scaffolding are in the area. There is also a huge vessel with cranes and booms building a pier.

President Aquino yesterday confirmed that China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea continue and reiterated his call on Beijing to defuse tension in the disputed waters.

The President also said the Philippines would continue to push for arbitration before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and for the code of conduct to govern claimant-countries’ behavior in disputed areas.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China are drafting the code of conduct. With Aurea Calica

 

ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

BURGOS REEF

CALDERON REEF

CHINA

IN MAY

KENNAN REEF

REEF

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

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