After months of political tensions and maritime squabbles, China on Wednesday said it has finally completed its land reclamation activities in some areas of the resource-rich West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
During a news briefing at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, its spokesman Hua Chunying revealed that “China’s construction on some stationed islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands has been completed recently as scheduled.”
The Chinese refer to Spratly Islands as Nansha Islands.
The next step would be for Beijing to start construction of facilities in the reclaimed islands “to meet relevant functional requirements.”
The facilities, according to Hua, will mainly provide various civilian services, and will enable China “to better perform its international obligations and responsibilities in areas such as maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, marine scientific research, meteorological observation, ecological environment conservation, navigation safety as well as fishery production service.”
He admitted that “necessary” military defense requirements will be placed on the islands.
The completion of the reclamation activities came as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) gears up to leave for The Hague in The Netherlands next week for oral arguments on the Philippines arbitration case against China scheduled from July 7 to 13.
The department is yet to release names of those in the Philippine delegation but Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario will make the trip.
Changing of the status quo and features in the region–turning submerged reefs into islands–is a sign of China’s strategy to solidify its “indisputable sovereignty” over the resource-rich region.
And so weeks before the oral arguments, the Foreign Affairs department came out with a three-part documentary on the West Philippine Sea, engaging the public to support the case–which China has repeatedly rejected–pending before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos).
The documentary has angered China, which called on claimant countries to negotiate with them bilaterally, and warned of consequences if the Philippines continues to play the issue in the media.
China has claims on 90 percent of the entire West Philippine Sea, including Philippine-claimed Mischief, Johnson South and Fiery Cross reefs–all strategically located and are within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).