ASEAN Foreign Ministers and their dialogue partners attend the 24th ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila, Philippines on Monday August 7, 2017. The U.S., Australian and Japanese foreign ministers called Monday for a halt to land reclamation and military actions in the South China Sea and compliance with an arbitration ruling that invalidated China's vast claims to the disputed waters. Mark Cristino/Pool Photo via AP

Philippines: No reports of island building in disputed sea prior to ASEAN meeting
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - August 11, 2017 - 7:13am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines on Friday stressed that it has not received reports of China's recent land reclamation activities in the South China Sea prior to the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in Manila.

The statement came after a Washington-based think tank released satellite imagery that Beijing has not stopped reclaiming features in the contested waters.

"While there have been land reclamation activities that have taken place in the Paracels in the previous months based on the AMTI (Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative) report, the same report did not indicate that such activity was taking place just prior to the AMM," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.

The department assured the public that such reports will be carefully studied, verified and handled accordingly.

READ: Photos disprove China's claim of halting land reclamation

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella also said that the reports should be verified for accuracy to preserve the trust and confidence among all disputants in the South China Sea, West Philippine Sea and the North Natuna Seas.

"The continuing reclamation and militarization of disputed territories in the waters, if the report from a Washington-based think tank are accurate, these can be taken up by the ASEAN in future discussions. We defer to ASEAN," Abella said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano earlier revealed that he did not want to include "land reclamation" in the ASEAN joint communique because Beijing had stopped land-filling.

READ: Philippines admits wanting land reclamation, militarization out of ASEAN communique

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also claimed that China had stopped reclaiming in the South China Sea two years ago.

The AMTI report released earlier this week disproved Cayetano and Wang's statements as it showed Beijing's dredging and reclamation activities in the Paracel Islands.

In defense of Cayetano, the DFA said that his statement regarding China's land reclamation activities must be taken "in its full context."

"In describing the process of discussions during the AMM, the Secretary noted that each ASEAN Member State goes into the talks with both their own national perspectives and the larger regional interest in mind," the DFA statement read.

The DFA stressed that the position of the Philippines is to always reflect the current situation in the disputed West Philippine Sea. The foreign policy of the country must always be considered, which is to not surrender a single inch of Philippine territory.

"As Chair of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, the Philippines’ primary goal was to ensure that the Joint Communique reflected the interests of the region and the ASEAN consensus," the DFA said.

READ: ASEAN stresses self-restraint, non-militarization in South China Sea

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