US halts China’s island reclamation


CHINA attempted to restart reclamation at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) but was stopped by the United States last year, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana bared on Thursday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana AFP PHOTO

The incident, according to Lorenzana, happened in May last year when the US “quietly” told China to stop reclamation in Panatag, also called Bajo de Masinloc, located 124 nautical miles northwest of Luzon.

“There was a plan by the Chinese to build, to reclaim Scarborough Shoal. In fact, we received a report from the Americans that there were barges already loaded with soil and construction materials going to Scarborough Shoal but the Americans I think told the Chinese, don’t do it. For some reason the Chinese stopped,” Lorenzana revealed in a forum in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The Defense chief immediately clarified that the manner in which the US stopped the reclamation was not authoritative as “they have channels of talking to each other.”

“So that’s the red line, according to the United States, building something at the Scarborough Shoal is a red line to them,” he added.

Even President Rodrigo Duterte had stated that once the Chinese begin exploring and putting rigs in the disputed waterways, he would talk to Beijing, Lorenzana said.

Over the weekend, Lorenzana and other Cabinet members were invited to the USS Carl Vinson patrolling the South China Sea, where they witnessed fighter jets taking off and landing on the American aircraft carrier.
The Defense chief noted that the structures built by the Chinese were “very extensive.”

“They have already reclaimed maybe close to about 500 hectares of land in that area, and interestingly they (Americans) also showed us some of the islands, seven islands that we have occupied ever since in the Spratlys, and interestingly the islands that were occupied now by the Philippines are all islands, not shoal,” he said.

Chinese ships in Benham Rise

Besides Panatag Shoal, the Chinese are also scouting or exploring Benham Plateau, also known as Benham Rise, east of the Isabela coastline to “put submarines” there.

A Chinese survey ship, according to Lorenzana, was monitored sailing the territory last year.

“One of their survey ships is also plying the Benham Rise already, last year…it was monitored for about three months,” he said.

“According to our marine patrol they have been monitored mostly in the Recto Bank, … they have been there many times because they have plotted the routes, but we already submitted the report to the secretary of Foreign Affairs to make a protest to the Chinese ambassador. We have to protest because we have to show these people that we consider those areas as ours,” Lorenzana added.

The Defense chief said he had ordered the Philippine Navy to drive the survey ship away if it showed up anew.


A United Nations-backed arbitration tribunal last year affirmed the Philippines’ sovereign rights to areas within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, including Panatag Shoal and Mischief Reef.
Lorenzana said the Chinese knew they would lose any case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which was why Beijing opted not to participate.

“Now the problem with the Chinese, they are cherry-picking the laws that they are going to follow…they can do it because to them might is right, they have the power there, they know that we do not have the wherewithal to oppose them, so we continue to monitor the happenings there, we have regular marine patrol in the West Philippine Sea by the (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Western Command,” he said.

When the arbitration ruling was released in July, Lorenzana said he wanted to recommend to the Cabinet and the President “to assert our right immediately and inform the Chinese that we will send our navy and drive them away from the Scarborough Shoal.”

Following a number of discussions however, Lorenzana said the President told him the Philippines should not brag about its legal victory and not taunt the Chinese.

“That is why in September of last year we went to China I was there with him (Duterte) and talked personally to [Chinese President] Xi Jin Ping and after that, when we came back here, our fishermen were allowed to go back to the Scarborough area to fish and they have been doing that ever since,” he said.

When Duterte did this, Lorenzana said there were public misconceptions that the President had set aside the tribunal ruling.

“That’s not true, he said this many times in front of us…let us just manage the conflict with the Chinese and ask the Chinese to allow our people to go back to their livelihood,” he explained.

While the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard go to the disputed area often, security officials get most of their intelligence from fishermen who are there every day, Lorenzana said.


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  1. Prinze Fisher on

    Nung nakaraang taon pa pala yan ngayon niyo lang nalaman? Hehe. 3 months daw silang nag-survey hindi sila pinatigil ng Philippine Coast Guard?.

    Kung ang pangungurakoy ay matigil, siguro may budget na ang Pinas pambili ng armas para depensahan ang sariling nasasakupan.

    Sa mga leaders natin sana makonsensya kayo at unahin niyo ang kapakanan ng ating bansa at hindi puro pansarili.

  2. You’ve expressed all your ideas about the matter, but do you still remember what happened in the past decades? The Filipino people kick the shit out of the Americans and sent them packing home with all their belongings a few years back. It was the Americans who rescued the Philippines from the Spanish regime
    and then give them back their independence on July 4th. And then it was the Americans again with a help from their allies who liberated the Philippines from the Japanese occupation. Did the Americans plunder the wealth of the Philippines in their stay in the island to protect the country from foreign invasion? Did they took all the wealth and minerals of the Philippines and haul it back to their country. Did the philippines pay for all the expenses and damages suffered by the Americans in liberating and protecting the Philippines? Instead, they Filipinos demonstrated in front of the U. S. embassy demanding the Americans to leave the country and to take away all the U. S. Bases in the Philippines. People carry signs which says “Yankee go home”
    in front of the U. S. embassy. People don’t realize that the Americans are paying rent to the Bases that they are occupying. The Americans and their families who live there spend their own money and those dollars are income to the Philippine government. I don’t think the Americans steals the wealth and the product of the Filipinos and abuse the rights of the people. It is the Philippines who benefitted from the Americans stay in the country. How about the foreign aid that the country receive from the U. S. A.? Where does the Philippines get their Armed Forces supplies like Airplanes, Ships, guns, AFP vehicles? Ngayon, salahat ng nangyaring ito, sino ang lumalabas na “walang utang na loob”. Just like what Rafael Yabot says in his radio show before he closes, ” Bayan ko, wala akong sinabi sa inyo”.
    AMEN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Then what is your interest? Tp ptomote sovereignity patriotism to your country or left it to us to promote our sobereign right. For all we know we cannot stand by our own feet. So we need the help of our allied friends.. Is that wrong? Definitely NOT WRONG. dont say they are the worst exploiter. The Chinese are.. They are like the Durch of the the 1900’s who exploit amd leave you nothing.. Americans are not. Yu sre Just Pro Chinese. Mr. yuan currency..

  4. Carlo Estrada on

    I believe now what totally Sec Delfin Lorenzana’s position why he exposed the US secret intervention of China activity in Scarborough Shoal, it is awareness to all Filipinos that there were possibilities that these two superpowers had secret agenda in the WPS. Baka magising nalang tayo pinag hatian na ng dalawang Higante ang South China Sea. hahaha

  5. The Philippines must start STANDING on its own feet when faced with such challenge (?) as Intsik encroachement – actual or potential -into our sovereign domain. Just look at how Vietnam did it. Otherwise, the Intsik will just do what it wants with our waters.

  6. mabait na pinoy on

    Lorenzana’s group were invited to board the USS Vinson so they can closely look on what the Americans were saying all these years, and it is unbelievable what they have done to the shoal. They have turned shoal into islands and have built infrastructures on those seven (7) islands for military use. The Chinese is once again doing the survey on Benham Rise and Recto Bank, just east of Isabela Coastline for future claim. This is a clear indication that the Chinese are on mission to expand their claimed territory, and I, personally suspects that this is another area where Senator Trillanes sold to the Chinese, when he was sent secretly to China by PNoy,

  7. kale alaskador on

    The Chinese stopped the reclamation. The Americans did it quietly. There is no need to broadcast this to the world. This will only provoke the Chinese to continue the reclamation and there is nothing we can do about it!

    • Of course the world should know. These bullies whoever they are have to be spoken about out loud & the world should know first what they are doing illegally & then that action is being taken against them & the outcome of that action. If you in anyway try to appease bullies you will regret it. Also to speak of it is not bragging or boasting its stating facts. When people know you are doing something help will usually be offered to you. The philippines, japan, vietnam & all other countries affected by china in this & or other illegal activiies should all speak out loud to the world so all know.

  8. Ramon Gloria on

    It is doubtful if the Americans actually stopped the Chinese from doing reclamation. Delfin Lorenzana is pro American. And if it is true that they stopped the Chinese, that means the Americans have an interest to promote. Their actions have nothing to do with protecting the interests of the Filipino people. The U.S. has been the biggest exploiter of our natural resources in the past 100+ years. Only they and their puppets in the Philippine government have benefited from this activity leaving the rest of Filipinos in poverty.

    • RAMON GLORIA, I know you have the right to your opinion, but your comments are the dumbest thing i ever heard, you do not know what your are talking, no offense.

    • You would look a gift horse in the mouth? The US stands by its friends, to the benefit of all Filipinos. There are no “puppets in the Philippines, only Chinese trolls.

    • If US truly stopped China in their supposed intention in Panatag shoal, its because it will be a threat to their base here, whatever you may call it, not because it threaten the Philuppines

    • Good observation. Am not pro US, but with hindsight benefit, colonizers can all be compared against each other and one will appear to be better (for the colony) than the other.

      Next step is for vigilant people like you and sometimes myself to put ideas into more concrete actions for our country to move forward.