The reclaimed Kagitingan Reef is believed to become the site of a runway for China's air assets to be present in a disputed area already dominated by its ships
Photos obtained by Rappler show
Taken on December 12, 2014, the photos show improvements in the reclamation site compared to the first photo published in November by security analysis group IHS Jane, the first to draw international attention to the construction of a possible airstrip and a harbor in the area.
The photos obtained by Rappler from a source also show the presence of dredgers, cargo vessels, and fishing boats. The photos are a part of a collection that show the status of
reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea ( South
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Evan Garcia on Wednesday, January 21, spoke about photos of the reclamation projects and described them as "massive." It was not clear if he was referring to the photos Rappler would later obtain and if there were newer photos of the reclamation projects.
"The massive reclamation by
China in South China Sea is a clear violation of what we agreed on
the DOC (Declaration of Conduct). It is not helpful in terms of finding a way
forward," Garcia said in a media briefing on Wednesday, January 21,
following the 5th annual Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) between the Philippines and the . US
The 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the
China Sea says no party should take any steps that creates tension
in the disputed area.
Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino on Wednesday cited intelligence reports in the Chinese activities in Kagitingan. "It has grown. The developments we have observed have been implemented from the last time we last had Bilateral Strategic Dialogue," said Batino.
"We are very seriously concerned....It's very serious," he said.
Earlier this month, Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr estimated the reclamation activity to be "50% complete." He expressed concern that the reef could be used for "purposes other than for peaceful use."
US is concerned, too
"It’s true that the Chinese have a number of projects underway in South China Sea reclaiming land in shoals and rocks in sensitive areas whose sovereignty are contested," Russel said.
He added, "This is an ongoing concern, not only for claimants, not only ASEAN and Southeast Asia but for all Pacific nations including the
frankly, all nations who rely on freedom of navigation, the sea lanes, and the
principle of unimpeded lawful commerce." US
Russel called for diplomacy and the "maximum exercise of restraint," and for claimant states to follow the ASEAN-China DOC.
[Video report: US calls for maximum restrainst amid China activities in West PH Sea
A Chinese airstrip will dramatically change the security situation in the West Philippine Sea, where 6 countries, including the
have overlapping claims. China
An airstrip will allow Chinese planes, including even fighter jets, to land on the artificial island and get very near the country, a scenario that raises serious concerns, the sources said.
It will also mean
can stay longer in the area. Harbors can also host tankers and other sea
Chinese ships have stopped harassing Philippine ships since the reclamation activities began, noted one of the sources with a sarcastic laugh.
"It is perhaps because they already got what they wanted," the source said.