The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday accused China of being insincere in its offer to the United States to use its reclaimed islands in the contested West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Amid growing international concerns about its massive reclamation activities in the resource-rich but contested region, Beijing last week offered the US the use of its facilities, which include an airstrip, in the reclaimed islands for international rescue and relief operations.
The US has an intensified presence in the region because of its rebalance to Asia policy while the reclaimed islands are expected to house military facilities and equipment.
Washington rejected the offer, saying that even if such facilities were used for rescue and relief operations, they still will not contribute to peace and stability in the volatile region.
Instead, the US asked China to halt all activities in the contested features of the waters.
Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, noted that China’s offer came after a statement from the G7 and US President Barack Obama criticizing Beijing for allegedly planned militarization of the reclaimed islands.
“We think that’s only an attempt of China to deflect international criticisms of [their]aggressive behavior and what they are doing in South China Sea, particularly the reclamation works,” Jose said.
“We should not be distracted by these issues,” he added, “and focus on the core issue” such as the “unilateral and aggressive behavior to enforce these claims [nine dash line].”
According to Jose, Beijing’s reclamation works have caused “massive and irreparable damage to the marine environment and ecosystem.”
Hopefully, he said, China will listen to calls from the international community to stop its reclamation activities.
Tensions between the Philippines and China have been in an all-time high since the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012.
Since then, Manila managed to file an arbitration case before the United Nations while Beijing moved to reclaim Mischief, Mabini, Chigua, Calderon, Kagitingan, Zamora and Gaven reefs, which are all within the Philippines’ Kalayaan Island Group.