“We have no first hand knowledge about this missile launch except this news report,” Lorenzana said when asked to comment on the report.
DND to probe missile test by China in disputed sea
Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - July 4, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of National Defense (DND) will investigate the alleged test-firing by the Chinese of ballistic missiles from artificial islands in the South China Sea, Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.

Reuters, quoting an unnamed United States official, said China tested multiple anti-ship ballistic missiles over the weekend in the South China Sea.

“We have no first hand knowledge about this missile launch except this news report,” Lorenzana said when asked to comment on the report.

“We will conduct our own inquiry and will decide later what to do if proven correct,” the defense chief said.

The report did not specify the type of missiles fired, or from which islands they were launched.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said Washington was aware of the missile launch from artificial islands built by the Chinese in the South China Sea.

“I’m not going to speak in behalf of all the sovereign nations in the region but I’m sure they agree that (China’s) behavior is contrary to its claim to want to bring peace to the region and obviously actions like this are coercive acts meant to intimidate other (South China Sea) claimants,” Eastburn was quoted as saying.

China has embarked on a reclamation binge in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea to project military power and strengthen control over one of the busiest trade routes in the world.

China’s island-fortresses are said to be equipped with advanced communications and missile defense systems.

Apart from threatening stability in the region, China’s island building spree has resulted in serious environmental degradation.

With a large part of the West Philippine Sea now under Chinese control, mainland poachers are practically unchallenged.

Philippine legal and maritime experts said the country faces irreversible damage to its marine resources in the next years if the Duterte administration does nothing to stop China’s destructive activities in the West Philippine Sea.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said China’s activities had already taken a heavy toll on the country’s natural resources.

He cited the situation at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal where at least 550 hectares of land had been dredged since 2016.

He lamented that the Duterte administration has opted to turn a blind eye to the destructive activities of Chinese vessels in the area. Damage to the shoal would be irreversible in five years if no concrete actions were made to stop the Chinese’ environmental depredation in the region.

In the Spratly Islands group, he said China has created artificial islands in an area covering about 1,300 hectares.

“It’s infuriating that as we talk about resolving this peacefully through negotiations, they’re gobbling up the very thing we’re talking about,” he said in Filipino at a press conference at Annabel’s Restaurant in Quezon City.

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said there’s nothing in the country’s laws that exempt another country from poaching local marine resources. “There’s no exemption for friends,” he said. – With Emmanuel Tupas

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