Posts Tagged ‘Gary Alejano’

Philippines: Are Filipino Fishermen Welcome In The South China Sea? — Anybody brave enough to ask China the rules?

May 30, 2018
Cayetano hails fishermen’s access to South China Sea (West Philippine Sea); Alejano questions continued harassment
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – May 30, 2018 – 12:56pm

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano have conflicting takes on the state of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

While the country’s top diplomat said that Filipino fishermen can now sail freely, the Magdalo lawmaker revealed that the fishermen still experience harassment from the Chinese.

Cayetano, in a briefing at the House of Representatives, said that it is a gain for the Philippines under the Duterte administration that local fishermen are allowed to fish in the disputed seas.

“There is still slight harassment but in the past it was total harassment. Before, our ships cannot enter but now they can access the maritime environmental protection area,” Cayetano told the House panel.

While Cayetano sees “slight harassment” as an improvement, it remains a point of contention for Alejano.

Alejano agreed that Filipino fishermen now have access to Scarborough Shoal but their activities are limited.

“In fact, when they fish there, their catch are being inspected and the best fish are being taken away from them there. If you are a fisherman, your time is wasted, your effort is wasted,” Alejano said.

The Magdalo lawmaker also questioned the “red line” that the Philippines imposed on China not to encroach on Scarborough Shoal.

“I don’t believe that we have control over there because they (China) are now controlling Scarborough Shoal so how can you say that we have control?” Alejano said.

Earlier this week, Cayetano said that the Philippines has identified actions that would be considered unacceptable in the South China Sea amid the maritime dispute between the two countries.

Aside from the Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines also warned China against attempting to remove the Philippine Navy ship anchored near Ayungin Shoal.

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Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

According to Cayetano, President Rodrigo Duterte would be willing to wage a war against Beijing if they break these conditions.

“That’s what the president said. If anyone gets the natural resources in the West Philippine Sea-South China Sea, he will go to war. He said: ‘Bahala na.’ He will go to war. So those were our red lines,” Cayetano said last Monday.




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China has seven military bases near te Philippines

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.


Philippine Government ‘Accomplice’ in China’s Military Expansion

February 7, 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte and his government may be becoming an ‘accomplice’ in China’s plan to extend its economic and military reach by giving Beijing preferential treatment in research activities in the Philippine Rise, says Sen. Leila De Lima. AP/Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines — Detained Sen. Leila De Lima on Wednesday urged the Senate to probe China’s research in Benham Rise as she warned that the Philippine government’s preferential treatment of Beijing was making it a possible accomplice in the Chinese plan to extend its military and economic reach.

The senator stressed the need for the government to limit, if not prevent, Chinese access to the country’s territorial waters as this could expose strategic information that would endanger Manila’s national security.

“Circumstances surrounding Chinese activities in Philippine waters show that China’s interest over strategic areas within Philippine territory present a danger [to] our national interest, including our national security, economic and environmental interests, territorial integrity and sovereignty,” De Lima said.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution 604 which aimed to look into supposed “undue preference” given to China to explore the undersea region, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte barred foreign explorations in the region which came two days after Chinese vessels left the area.

Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino meanwhile urged the administration of Duterte to establish a consistent policy position on territorial and foreign policy issues.

He called on the government to be transparent about its dealings and agreements with other countries that may have repercussions on the country’s territory.

“We need full transparency in all our deals with other countries,” he said, stressing that the issue was too important for the government to be nonchalant.

On Tuesday, he called on the president to determine the country’s policies and programs for Benham Rise, also called the Philippine Rise, and welcomed Duterte’s cessation of foreign studies in the area.

However, Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo) revealed that Duterte’s stoppage order came two days after Chinese vessels left the area, an indication that they were done with their research.

De Lima said that Chinese access to waters off the country’s eastern seaboard would give Beijing military and scientific advantage by giving them information and access to areas including the Western Pacific Ocean Region.

“Continued tolerance by our government of Chinese incursions over our territorial waters makes our government an accomplice, wittingly or unwittingly, to the Chinese plan of expanding their military and economic reach well beyond their territory,” she said.

READ: Philippines conducting Benham Rise research without China

In her resolution, De Lima stated that China might just be looking for opportunities in the Pacific by increasing its submarine operations, citing former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez who said that the Chinese might just be looking for a thin layer of water called thermocline where their underwater assets could freely operate.

She said that this was in consonance to the statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who said last year that China might be looking for “a place to put submarines” when he ordered the Philippine Navy to shoo China’s vessels away.

De Lima also stressed doubt on China’s compliance with the country’s regulations in the Philippine Rise as it had already shown “bad faith” by conducting research prior to Manila’s approval.

Sen. Ralph Recto meanwhile called on the government to explore the Philippine Rise as a possible source of the country’s food and energy needs.

“With the West Philippine Sea effectively fenced off, we have to look to the ‘east Philippine seas’ for our food and fuel,” he said.

READ: ‘Probe Benham Rise research deal’


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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippine President’s Plan to Allow China to Secure the Sulu and Celebes Seas, Even Approaches to the Malacca Strait, Called “Careless and Ignorant”

February 1, 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier suggested that China should help  secure the Sulu and Celebes Seas from pirates and terrorists. Google Earth

MANILA, Philippines — Allowing China to secure the Sulu and Celebes Seas from pirates and terrorists would be tantamount to encouraging “a threat to your own backyard,” a lawmaker said Thursday.

Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano made this statement in reaction to the suggestion of President Rodrigo Duterte to ask for Chinese presence in the Philippine waters, where pirates freely pass through.

“It is careless and ignorant to encourage a threat in your own backyard. The President should not be crass on dropping such suggestions without looking at the whole situation in that area,” Alejano said in a statement.

Prior to his flight to New Delhi last week, Duterte said that China would help secure the Philippine waters like what the did in addressing the piracy problem in Somalia.

“Sasabihin ko sa inyo, kung hindi natin kaya, we’ll just have to call China to come in and blow them off just like Somalia, that Aden Strait there. Were it not for the presence of the Chinese, hindi mahinto ‘yung piracy doon,” Duterte said.

Alejano, however, said that attributing the curbing of piracy in Somalian waters would be an exaggeration as US and European ships also conducted patrols and anti-piracy operations in the region.

The Philippines should instead develop maritime cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia to secure the Celebes and Sulu Seas from the threat of piracy, the lawmaker added.

“I agree that we should have a hardline policy against piracy and terrorism. However, rather than immediately running to China, let us instead develop maritime cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia. Their borders are included in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, so it would make more sense geographically for them to be involved,” Alejano said.

RELATED: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines launch joint air patrols

The Philippine government should also focus on the modernization of the Coast Guard and the Navy in combating piracy before asking assistance from an outsider.

“I subscribe on having an independent foreign policy. However, as we are seeing now, it is not an independent foreign policy which the Duterte administration is going for. It is a dependent-to-China policy,” the Magdalo lawmaker said.

Duterte had been suggesting to request China to patrol areas in international waters leading to Malacca Strait and the Sulu Sea since last year.

In February 2017, the president said that Beijing could deploy its coast guard cutters, but not its “gray ships” or naval assets, into the country’s territorial zones.

RELATED: Duterte: Philippines, China can have military exercises in Sulu Sea


Philippines Navy Stopped Patrolling Scarborough Shoal in January 2016 in Part of Great Giveaway To China — Philippines’ government “practically surrendered” the country’s rights

November 21, 2017
“The AFP was ordered to desist from conducting aerial patrols over Panatag Shoal. However, the AFP insisted otherwise,” Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said., file

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy has stopped sending ships to patrol the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal in the disputed West Philippine Sea for almost two years now, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said Tuesday.

This revelation came in response to the statement of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that the government recently stopped sending Navy ships to Panatag Shoal.

The recent halt in Navy patrols was meant to ease tensions with China and prevent harassment from Chinese forces, according to Esperon

Alejano, meanwhile, claimed that he has received information that the Philippine Navy has not conducted a single mission to Panatag Shoal since January 2016.

“The frequent visits of Philippine Navy ships were noted in 2012 during a standoff with the Chinese Coast Guard. In the years that followed, very few patrols were conducted. In 2016, the government eventually ordered the complete halt of patrols in the area,” Alejano said.

The lawmaker added that Esperon’s statement attempts to hide the fact that the government has long ceased its efforts to strengthen the country’s claims on the disputed areas.

He also noted that there have been cases of Chinese harassment in the region since the Philippines reduced its presence in Panatag early last year.

“Instead of deterring incidence of harassment, Chinese forces have become more bold and fearless. In fact, some of our fishermen have opted not to venture anymore in Panatag for fear and worry of wasting their food and fuel just to be blocked by the Chinese,” Alejano said.

Alejano further claimed that the Philippine government ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to stop aerial patrols over Panatag, which the military denied.

“It is extremely disheartening to see our own government limiting the AFP from performing its mandate,” the Magdalo lawmaker said.

The lawmaker lamented that the government “practically surrendered” the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea by acceding to pressure from China.

“The Duterte administration has bargained our claims in the West Philippine Sea in exchange for promised economic concessions,” he said.

On the other hand, the Philippine Coast Guard might be tasked to patrol the disputed waters after receiving three newly commissioned multi-role response vessels.

Esperon earlier hinted at making the Coast Guard a lead agency in patrol operations in the western seaboard, along with the Philippine Navy and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

South China Sea: Philippine President To Press China On Code of Conduct

November 9, 2017
President Duterte talks with Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang during a bilateral meeting at the Da Nang Convention Center, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit yesterday. Vietnam is also locked in a maritime dispute with China. AFP

DA NANG — President Duterte intends to press China to ratify the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea as he questioned Beijing’s moves to fortify disputed islands in the contested area.

Duterte said he would push the issue when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a bilateral meeting here tomorrow.

“China must come up with the Code of Conduct,” Duterte said in a press briefing after meeting with the Filipino community here yesterday.

Duterte had to push back his return flight to Manila by about two hours to be able to meet with Xi on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in this Vietnamese city.

He stressed that he had developed good relations with China and he wanted to nurture this.

“I do not want to lose the friendship of China,” he said.

But being this year’s chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Duterte said he must put forward the interests of the claimant countries, which include Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei Darrusalam.

He said it was China who created the “ruckus” when it started putting arms around the islands.

“It is not wrong for me to tell China that you have already placed heavy artillery there. It puts us worried and wary because we are also using the passage,” the President added.

“We are friends but what is the role here of everybody…I am chair of ASEAN and I have to carry the voice of the ASEAN. I have to tell the truth that everybody is worried,” Duterte said.

He mentioned that during his meeting with Xi, he will have “to ask questions and forward the ASEAN.”

Rody told: Assert UN tribunal ruling

Meanwhile, a former Marine captain-turned congressman is urging Duterte to assert the ruling of the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.

Gary Alejano of party-list Magdalo made the appeal a day after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed that the President ordered a halt to a construction project on a sandbar near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island after China protested.

“I hope that the administration would now realize the importance and urgency of asserting the favorable ruling of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration issued in July 2016. There could not be any more proper time to stress it than now. We do not want to waste time that we could use to peacefully strengthen our claims,” Alejano said.

He said China had no basis to protest the construction work on one of the sandbars.

“The Philippines did not violate the Declaration of Conduct. The planned construction in Sandy Cay was not a new occupation by the Philippines. In fact, the sand bars have traditionally been under effective control of the Philippine troops. Further, the sand bars are subject to regular patrols and visitations by the Philippine troops and our own fishermen,” he said.

He noted that the Duterte government halts its activities at the slightest protest from Beijing.

“Meanwhile, Chinese forces, military and coast guard, are illegally entering our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), yet our foreign affairs secretary and the President could only respond that we assume good faith in their actions. The administration has been downplaying the situation in the West Philippine Sea while China continues to push us into the corner,” he said.

Alejano and his party-list group have been calling attention to Chinese “encroachments” in the country’s EEZ.

Not too long ago, the former Marine officer exposed the alleged presence of Chinese ships near one of the sandbars of Pag-asa.

A few days later, Philippine and Chinese officials acknowledged that one ship of China passed by the area. – With Jess Diaz




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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippines: House panel kills impeachment complaint vs President Duterte

May 15, 2017
In this March 30, 2017 file photo, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano shows a page from the impeachment complaint against President Rodrgio Duterte filed at the House of Representatives. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, first published at 1:41 p.m.) — The House justice committee declared on Monday that the first impeachment complaint filed against President Rodrigo Duterte is sufficient in form but insufficient in substance.

Emerging from a closed-door session after a morning of public deliberations, 42 members of the committee effectively dismissed the complaint, filed by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano who accuses Duterte of violating the Constitution.

The complaint, the first against Duterte who was inaugurated president last year, was filed in March by Alejano who accused the president of violating the Constitution in allowing killings linked to the war on drugs and treason in conferral with China on matters of the maritime domain.

An impeachment complaint requires the majority vote of committee members to move be endorsed to the House plenary, where the complaint would require the vote of a third of the chamber.

Monday’s session was the first step in the impeachment process, with the justice committee tasked to determine whether the verified complaint was “sufficient in form and substance,” stated in the rules of procedure.

“Form” refers to a complaint’s technical details following established methods, while “substance” refers to material allegations, of whether or not there is a cause of impeachment. It also refers to the jurisdiction of the body deliberating on it, according to a 2008 Supreme Court decision.

House rules also indicate that the requirement of “substance” is met if there is a detailed statement of facts constituting the offense charged.

The House of Representatives has the exclusive power to initiate cases of impeachment, which could be filed by any member of the lower chamber or citizen. Complaints should be accusations on culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes or betrayal of public trust.

At the session, members of the so-called supermajority allied to the Duterte administration grilled Alejano on the content of the complaint, which notes that there have been 8,000 individuals who have been killed in the context of the war on drugs.

Alejano said that the facts stated in his complaint have been verified, and were partly culled from news reports and testimonies of confessed hired killers who allegedly answered to orders of Duterte when he was still Davao City mayor.

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, a member of the committee, however, argued that Alejano should demonstrate first-hand or “personal” knowledge of the violations alleged in the complaint.

“Newspaper reports are not authentic records,” Fariñas said.

“This is the last time the House will entertain a complaint that violates the rules of verification,” he added.

The Senate, however, has the sole power to hold trial and decide on cases of impeachment.

The dismissal of the complaint was the expected outcome in a Congress controlled by the popular Duterte, whose campaign against illegal drugs enjoys wide support but is also heavily criticized for its violence and high death toll.



South China Sea: Chinese Building Military Facilities On Philippine Soil

March 30, 2017
This March 9 satellite image released by the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative shows that all hangars for 24 combat aircraft and four larger planes have been completed on Subi (Zamora) Reef. AMTI/CSIS via DigitalGlobe

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government said it is yet to verify the completion of Chinese military assets in the Spratly (Kalayaan) Islands in the South China Sea, the country’s top diplomat said Thursday.

This is despite Washington-based think tank CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative’s (AMTI) recently released satellite images showing the nearly complete construction of infrastructures on Subi (Zamora), Mischief (Panganiban) and Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reefs.

READ: China can now deploy military assets to South China Sea

Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said that the AMTI is basically suggesting that the facilities could accommodate military assets when it took the photos.

“We take it very seriously but I think when they say that this would accommodate this and that… We will have to verify with China,” Manalo said in an interview with ANC’s “Headstart.”

The think tank reported that the facilities in the three air bases would allow Beijing to deploy military assets including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers to the Spratly Islands any time.

The hangars on the “Big Three” islands can accommodate 24 combat aircraft and four larger planes that can be used for transport or refueling, according to the report.

China’s facility on Woody Island of the Paracel Islands would allow military aircraft to operate nearly the entire South China Sea.

Manalo, however, said that the Philippines would have to ask China first on their intention of building the facilities.

“These could also be used for civilian uses and or military. We’re not yet sure so we have to really see what happens,” Manalo said.

The Foreign Affairs secretary said that the Philippines would have to look at this issue in the context of the country’s approach to the South China Sea issue.

“The Philippines is fully committed to seeking a peaceful resolution of the disputes in the South China Sea,” the secretary said.

Manalo reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte made it clear that he would set aside the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the issue.

On July 12, 2016, the arbitral tribunal issued its award on Manila’s complaint against Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. The United Nations-backed tribunal ruled that China violated its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea when it constructed artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The country’s top diplomat, however, said that Duterte will raise the arbitral tribunal’s ruling with China “at the appropriate time.”

“I can’t divulge exactly how we’d say it but we would be pointing out that these construction are taking place on islands within our EEZ,” Manalo said.


Comment from Peace and Freedom: Chinese resolve in the South China Sea has remained  the same for several years. The Philippines has been unable to set a policy and stick with it since Prersident Detarte was elected….



Philippine lawmaker wants President Duterte’s impeachment — Defeatist stance of Duterte gives the South China Sea to China — Unwillingness to defend the Philippines

March 30, 2017


Thu Mar 30, 2017 | 1:21am EDT

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A Philippines lawmaker filed supplementary charges on Thursday to an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte, accusing him of taking a “defeatist stance” by doing nothing to challenge Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea.

Opposition congressman Gary Alejano said Duterte had made a slew of remarks that proved he had no intention to protect Philippine sovereignty and had alienated key allies like the United States through “rants and unstoppable outbursts”.

The complaint adds to a laundry list of what Alejano says are impeachable offences that amount to high crimes, abuse of power and betrayal of public trust.

He submitted the initial complaint two weeks ago, just as Congress went into a recess, a move aimed at keeping it in the public spotlight and preventing Congress from dismissing it right away. It reconvenes on May 2.

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A Chinese-bomber passes over the Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal

Duterte is frequently accused of abuse of power, though none of the allegations have so far stuck. The populist former city mayor commands a legislative majority and enjoys huge public support.

Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Alejano’s additional complaint was groundless propaganda and part of a coordinated conspiracy by Duterte’s opponents.

Alejano said Duterte had failed to act on a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration last year that invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim to most of the South China Sea, its justification for building man-made islands in Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

He said Duterte’s recent comments that he could do nothing to stop China if it were to build structures at the disputed Scarborough Shoal indicated his unwillingness to defend the country’s rights.

The criticism comes as Duterte intensifies his charm offensive to encourage China to invest billions of dollars in the Philippines, including its flagging infrastructure, an approach that contrasts sharply with his open hostility towards the United States.

He last week railed against Washington for allowing China to construct and arm its artificial islands, but placed no blame on Beijing.

On Wednesday Duterte said he had asked the U.S. ambassador to Manila “why did you not send the armada?”.

A U.S. think-tank on Monday said China had finished building military infrastructure on those islands and was now capable of deploying combat planes there.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Michael Perry)



 (Contains links to several previous articles on the South China Sea)

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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

Philippines: President Duterte Foes Amend Impeachment Complaint, Call Duterte Stance on China ‘Dereliction of Duty’

March 20, 2017
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano holds a copy of the impeachment complaint he filed against President Duterte at the House of Representatives on Thursday. photo
MANILA, Philippines — Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said that his group is considering  filing a supplemental complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly being subservient to China.
Alejano’s statement came after Duterte claimed last week that he allowed China to send survey ships to Benham Rise as part of an agreement.
The Department of Foreign Affairs last week said it was not aware of an agreement or policy over the Benham Rise region.
In an interview on CNN’s ‘The Source,’ Alejano said that the president’s action is a matter of national security since there is a conflict of interest with China on the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that Manila claims.
“We’re talking about national interest here, we’re talking about national security here because we have a clear conflict of interest in West Philippine Sea,” Alejano said.
China has repeatedly reiterated its position over the South China Sea, saying it has a historical and legal claim over the vast area.
An international tribunal however, ruled in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case against China, saying that China’s “nine-dash line” claim over a large part of the South China Sea, including part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, has no basis.
In a speech on Sunday, Duterte also said that he cannot stop China from setting up a reported monitoring station in the Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc.
“We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Hindi nga napara ng Amerikano,” Duterte said.
Duterte added that the country will lose all of its military and policemen if he declares war against China.
Alejano however, said that war is not the only solution, saying that the president could constantly raise issues in the West Philippines Sea.
“He’s not doing that because he’s afraid to offend China,” Alejano said.
He added that if Duterte said he cannot do anything to protect the country’s territory “then that’s dereliction of duty.”
 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

South China Sea: China says It Will Build Upon Scarborough Shoal — Apparently Breaking a Promise made to President Dutere

March 17, 2017


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The top official in Sansha City that has administered China’s island claims since 2012 was quoted by the official Hainan Daily newspaper as saying that preparations were underway to build an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal off the northwestern Philippines. File photo

BEIJING – China plans to build the first permanent structure on a South China Sea shoal at the heart of a territorial dispute with the Philippines, in a move likely to renew concerns over Beijing’s robust assertions of its claims in the strategically crucial waterbody.

The top official in Sansha City that has administered China’s island claims since 2012 was quoted by the official Hainan Daily newspaper as saying that preparations were underway to build an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal off the northwestern Philippines.

The preparatory work on the stations and others on five other islands in the strategically vital waterway was among the government’s top priorities for 2017, Sansha Communist Party Secretary Xiao Jie was quoted as saying in an interview published in the paper’s Monday edition seen online yesterday in Beijing. No other details were available.

Beijing seized tiny, uninhabited Scarborough in 2012 after a tense standoff with Philippine vessels. Taiwan also includes the island within its South China Sea claims that largely overlap with those of China.

The other stations mentioned by Xiao would be situated on features in the Paracel island group that China has controlled since seizing parts of it away from Vietnam in 1974.

China’s construction and land reclamation work in the South China Sea have drawn strong criticism from the US and others, who accuse Beijing of further militarizing the region and altering geography to bolster its claims. China says the seven man-made islands in the disputed Spratly group, which it has equipped with airstrips and military installations, are mainly for civilian purposes and to boost safety for fishing and maritime trade.

Prior to the announcement, South China Sea tensions had eased somewhat since Beijing erupted in fury last year after a Hague-based arbitration tribunal ruled on a case filed by the Philippines. The verdict invalidated China’s sweeping territorial claims and determining that China violated the rights of Filipinos to fish at Scarborough Shoal.

China has since allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the shoal following President Duterte’s calls for closer ties between the countries, but it does not recognize the tribunal’s ruling as valid and insists it has historical claims to almost the entire South China Sea, through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes each year.

Scarborough has no proper land mass and any structure on it would likely have to be built on stilts. The shoal forms a triangle-shaped lagoon of rocks and reefs running for 46 kilometers, with its highest point just 1.8 meters (about 6 feet) above water at high tide. Known in Chinese as Huangyan Island, it lies about 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, and about 600 kilometers (370 miles) southeast of China.

US diplomats have said privately that reclamation work on the shoal would be seen as crossing a red line because of its proximity to the main Philippine islands and the threat it could pose to US and Filipino military assets.

During his Senate confirmation hearing for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson compared China’s island-building and military deployments to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and suggested China’s access to the islands should not be allowed. The US says China has reclaimed more than 1,295 hectares (3,200 acres) of land in the area.

The topic is likely to be high on the agenda when Tillerson visits Beijing for talks with top officials on Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang was visiting the Philippines, just days after Duterte said Monday that he had told the military to assert Philippine ownership of a large ocean region off the country’s northeastern coast where Chinese survey ships were spotted last year, in a discovery that alarmed Philippine defense officials.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have long contested ownership of the South China Sea, which straddles one of the world’s busiest sea lanes and is believed to sit atop vast deposits of oil and gas.

Also this week, the commander in chief of China’s navy, Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong, noted improving relations in a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Rear Adm. Pham Hoai Nam, in Beijing.

China and Vietnam have had long-running territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Tensions spiked in 2014 after China parked an oil rig near Vietnam’s central coast, sparking mass protests in Vietnam.

The two navies and their countries should “together play a positive role in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Shen was quoted as saying by China’s defense ministry.



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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.