CHINA has denied claims it had begun reclamation work at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) following the sighting of six Chinese boats around the disputed area.
Although it admitted the presence of a number of Chinese coast guard vessels and fishing boats, Beijing insisted “there are no dredging or building activities there.”
“The situation there has not changed,” the Chinese Embassy in Manila said in a statement late Wednesday.
It also denied reports that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua had admitted that “the vessels are transferring sand from one area to another,” as allegedly quoted by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
“The Chinese Embassy would like to clarify that Ambassador Zhao has not yet had the honor to meet with His Honorable Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and the media must have misquoted him,” the embassy said.
It added that Beijing was ready to work with Manila for the enhancement of mutual trust and the development of bilateral relations.
The Department of National Defense on Wednesday released Philippine Air Force surveillance photos of Chinese vessels in addition to coast guard ships at Panatag, which Lorenzana said was a cause for “grave concern.”
In a news briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that China did nothing to change the situation at the shoal.
“We should be highly alert against the mischief-making intentions of people who spread such groundless information in such situations,” Hua said.
Panatag Shoal, a resource-rich traditional fishing ground, is located within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It was seized by China following a 2012 standoff.
Last July 12, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against China’s claims to most of South China Sea, including areas covered by the Philippines’ EEZ as guaranteed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
China, a signatory to the Unclos, boycotted the proceedings at The Hague and refuses to recognize the ruling.