Malacañang on Friday said China’s ongoing land reclamation in reefs in the disputed waters was seen by the Philippine government as preparation for more land reclamation operations.
Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said China’s attempt to expand its maritime frontiers by claiming islands and reefs was “designed” to advance its “nine-dash line” claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“Well, apparently they are very aggressive in pursuing their expansion in the West Philippine Sea and, obviously, these steps are designed to advance the theory of their nine-dash line,” Valte told reporters in a press conference.
“Their [China] nine-dash line theory essentially occupies the entire West Philippine Sea,” she added
Valte remarks came after reports that China is reclaiming land in not just one but five areas in the disputed Spratlys Islands.
The report noted that a confidential Malacañang report detailed the land reclamation activities of China in five areas, namely Johnson South (Mabini) Reef, Cuarteron (Calderon) Reef, Hughes (Kennan) Reef, Gaven (Burgos) Reef and Eldad (Malvar) Reef.
In March, the Philippine government revealed that China was reclaiming land in Mabini Reef, part of the Kalayaan Island Group.
The Department of Foreign Affairs released photographs showing how the small Chinese garrison was expanded to almost nine hectares in just two years.
Earlier this month, President Benigno Aquino 3rd said he had seen photos of Chinese ships that can be used for reclamation near the Johnson, Gaven and Cuarteron Reefs.
Valte, however, said reports that China has expanded its activities in other parts of the West Philippine Sea have not yet been confirmed.
“The President did mention, pretty recently, about movements that have been monitored in Calderon Reef. But I am not quite certain about the other two that have been mentioned, but we will check with the military,” she said.
Valte added that the Philippines is sticking to diplomacy and refuses to be provoked into any action despite reports of China’s activities.
“We have chosen those tracks. The legal, the political, as well as the diplomatic; and we will stick to that. Again, we will not respond to provocative acts,” she said.
The Philippine has filed an arbitration case against China. Malacañang said the country’s move has gained the support of other nations.
China, however, has refused to subject itself to the arbitration proceedings.
Tensions in the South China Sea have been rising since the discovery of China’s oil rig in the Paracel Islands, its reclamation at Mabini Reef, and Beijing’s activities in Ayungin Shoal.
Over the years, China also laid claim to the Kalayaan island group and Scarborough Shoal.