IBA, Zambales: Governor Amor Deloso on Monday belied reports on the alleged presence of the Chinese military in Zambales.
The Chinese, according to Deloso, are based in a reclaimed area near the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.
The Philippines also refers to the shoal as Panatag.
The Scarborough Shoal is 85 kilometers from the provincial capital of Santa Cruz and some 65 kilometers from the town of Masinloc.
“The Chinese military is based at an airport built by China at the reclaimed area near Scarborough Shoal, which was built out of the mountain soil of Santa Cruz,” the governor told The Manila Times.
A report published in a newspaper (not The Manila Times) earlier said Deloso had warned about the Chinese military occupying a 500-hectare mountain area in Santa Cruz town where their missile is supposedly stationed.
The governor was quoted in the story as saying that the Chinese military was able to build the 500-hectare island out of three mountains in Santa Cruz where they stationed a missile.
The missile supposedly is being watched closely by US warships, especially now that the UN international arbitration court in The Hague has ruled in favor of the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute.
The report also alleged that the reclaimed area was sold to the Chinese by Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., the previous governor of the province.
Efforts to reach Ebdane, however, failed as one of his media assistants said he has been changing his mobile phone numbers while another one said she will forward this paper’s request for the former governor to comment on the matter.
There was no reply from Ebdane as of press time on Monday.
The Spratly Islands where Scarborough Shoal is located is composed of some 100-230 islets, atolls, coral reefs and sea mounts spreading over 250,000 square kilometers in the South China Sea.
It is a subject of overlapping sovereignty claims by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.
The islands are no more than five square kilometers but prospects of oil, gas and other mineral resources have kept them at the forefront of a regional dispute.
Deloso said China has occupied Scarborough Shoal because “there is a big source of oil there.”
He recently suspended nickel mining in Santa Cruz and nearby towns through his first executive order after assuming post as provincial governor this month.
According to groups opposed to mining in Zambales, some 200 hauling trucks used to transport nickel ore from mining sites to the pier load their cargo daily on ships bound for China.
Some of these hauling trucks, according to Santa Cruz residents, may have contained soil, sand and rocks that are used by China in reclaiming islands in the disputed waters.
Sources at the Subic Bay Freeport said increased bunkering outside the periphery of Subic Bay has been noted since late last year, promptjng the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority to suspend bunkering operations.
A probe was conducted on suspicion that the ships refueling outside Subic Bay could be used to transport materials for the reclamation of the islands.
The United States has expressed alarm over the expansion of China in the contested areas where some US$5 trillion in trade passes each year.