China air base on Kagitingan Reef a security threat, says Palace
militarization of the disputed Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef in the South China Sea is not surprising, but Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. stressed this is a “threat to peace and security.”
“From the very beginning, China -- we knew -was militarizing the area by reclaiming these areas and by using them as military bases. So the fact that they are actually using it now as military bases, as far as I am concerned, is not new. It’s not news because we’ve always been against the militarization of the area,” Roque said in a press conference Tuesday, January 9.
“Kagitingan is one of the islands that it (China) had already reclaimed and this is also one of the islands subject to the arbitral tribunal decision that it is within the Philippine economic zone. It’s certainly not okay because of course, it constitutes a further threat to peace and security in the area,” he added.
China has reportedly transformed Kagitingan Reef into a 2.8-square-kilometer fortified air base, equipped with complete military installations.
A report by Hong Kong-based news website Asia Times detailed how Kagitingan Reef has been transformed into a Chinese military base, which features a 3,125-meter runway for H-6K strategic bombers.
Asia Times also reported that China’s artificial island has a hospital and military facilities, including early warning radars and close-proximity weapons systems.
According to the report, over 200 Chinese soldiers have been stationed on the Kagitingan Reef.
A year-end feature aired by Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television showed a rare aerial shot of Kagitingan Reef that has been transformed into a big island.
The report came amid China and the Philippines’ improved ties, despite the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling that favored Manila
and invalidated Beijing’s “nine-dash line” claim in the contested South China Sea.
On Monday, January 8, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines will file a diplomatic protest against China, if the latter indeed militarized Kagitingan Reef.
Roque said filing a diplomatic protest was the “proper remedy” for the Philippine government.
The presidential spokesperson, however, stressed that there was no “breach of good faith” since China was not reported to be reclaiming new islands in the disputed waters.
“(Filing a diplomatic protest) is the proper remedy but that’s something the Department of Foreign Affairs will have to address. But all I’m saying is that there is still no breach of the good faith obligation, for as long as China has not embarked on new reclamations,” Roque said.
“The point is, has there been a breach of Chinese commitment not to reclaim any new islands or shoals in the area? For as long as there is none, then we continue to respect that they are true to their commitment not to do so,” he added. SunStar Philippines