Philippines: China’s new runways heighten sea tension
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – China’s building of additional runways in Panganiban (Mischief) Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands is a violation of international laws and would further contribute to tensions in the region, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. stressed that the Philippines is determined to “assert the importance of freedom of navigation and over flight” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

The building of additional runways contributes to heightened tensions in the region, Coloma told state-run radio dzRB.

“We reiterate that these actions by China violate not only pertinent international laws but also the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea of which China is a signatory, along with the member countries of ASEAN,” he added, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In a report posted on its website, think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said China is progressing faster than expected with its construction works in Panganiban Reef and Zamora (Subi) Reef.

According to AMTI, the Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) airstrip took at least seven months from the start of grading, while the grading in Zamora “seems to be proceeding slightly quicker.”

“In Mischief, where grading began in September or October, construction is already approaching completion just three to four months later. Meanwhile, China is rapidly building out other facilities on both Mischief and Subi,” the report read.

Panganiban Reef is located 21 nautical miles from the BRP Sierra Madre, the rusty ship that serves as headquarters of Filipino Marines at the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

It has been occupied by China since 1995. The Chinese government initially put up structures on stilts at the reef, supposedly to provide shelter for fishermen. The structures, however, were later transformed into a garrison with powerful radars.

“This strategic location combined with its size (China has reclaimed twice as much land at Mischief Reef as it did at Fiery Cross and about 50 percent more than at Subi) makes developments at Mischief of particular concern the Philippines,” AMTI said.

ACIRC ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS CHINA CONDUCT OF PARTIES FIERY CROSS FILIPINO MARINES IN MISCHIEF MISCHIEF AND SUBI MISCHIEF REEF PANGANIBAN REEF
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