From GMA News (May 29): Gazmin: China concerned PHL wants to build more structures on Ayungin Shoal
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said China intends to keep monitoring Manila over concerns that the Philippines intends to put up new structures on Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas) in the disputed Spratly Islands.
Gazmin revealed this after his meeting with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing at Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday over questions about whether or not China will remove its ships from the Ayungin Shoal.
"Ang sabi nya ay mino-monitor nila yung barko nating nandudun kung magtatayo tayo ng bagong structure," Gazmin told reporters.
However, Gazmin told the ambassador that Philippine ships coming to the shoal will only be delivering provisions for Marines stationed there.
"They were concerned (the Philippines is) coming up with structures, additional structures in the Ayungin shoal, and I told her that the ship that is moving towards Ayungin shoal is only for provisions of food and water for soldiers who are there," he said.
"Sabi naman natin ay magdadala tayo ng provisions ng supply sa mga tao dun, tubig, at pagkain, at saka yung rotation of troops kasi hindi naman pwedeng permanente ang tao dun, masisira ang ulo," Gazmin also said.
The Ayungin Shoal is one of nine Filipino-occupied islands or islets in the Spratly Islands. It is guarded by a handful of Philippine Marines, estimated to be less than 10, aboard a ship that was deliberately grounded there in the late 1990s to mark the territory.
Meanwhile, Ma remarked that cooperation and "very good exchanges" between China and the Philippines are willing to be done by her country.
"We also talked about the balanced relations, I think China is ready to develop cooperation and very good exchanges between the two sides, because this year is the year of friendly exchanges between our two countries, so we are ready to promote the cooperation and exchanges between the two countries," she told reporters.
Gazmin said the Philippines is doing what it can to avoid the escalation of the issue.
"Ang threat is always there, it's always there but we do follow some protocols like avoidance of dangerous maneuvers, avoidance of confrontational moves, so right now it's holding," Gazmin said.
Gazmin had earlier said that the Philippines will fight China "to the last man standing" to defend its territory in the Ayungin Shoal.