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China’s Illegal Island Construction? Philippines Spots Suspicious Activity in South China Sea

Daniel Kim Views  

A member of the Philippine Coast Guard was surveying the South China Sea region on October 4th last year. South China Sea / Reuters Yonhap News

Bloomberg reported on the 11th (local time) that the Philippine government has deployed coast guard vessels to a disputed area of the South China Sea after detecting signs of China building artificial islands.

President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines said, “We have dispatched a coast guard vessel to monitor illegal island-building activities by China at the Spratly Islands’ Sabina Shoal (known as Escoda Shoal in Philippine English).” He added that two additional coast guard vessels have been deployed rotationally.

Commodore Jay Tarriela, a spokesperson for the Philippine Coast Guard, said that ‘small-scale land reclamation’ activities were detected at Sabina Shoal, and China’s involvement is highly likely.

He pointed out that the Philippine Coast Guard has found and documented piles of broken, dead coral fragments on the reef and that the discovery of the coral fragments coincides with the discovery that dozens of vessels, including Chinese naval warships and oceanographic survey vessels, have been in the area.

Commodore Tarriela added that the Philippine Coast Guard plans to bring marine scientists to Sabina Shoal to determine whether the dead coral fragments are a natural phenomenon or the result of human activity and intends to keep a coast guard vessel stationed there for an extended period.

Sabina Shoal is approximately 200 km (124 miles) northwest of Palawan Island in the western Philippines. China and the Philippines are engaged in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, a maritime trade route worth $3 trillion annually. China has been causing friction with its neighboring countries, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and the international community, including the United States, by claiming sovereignty over about 90% of the South China Sea.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that China’s sovereignty claim has no legal basis under international law. Nevertheless, China has been criticized by the United States and other countries in the region for drawing a nine-dash line around the South China Sea, building artificial islands all along the line, and militarizing them.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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