Philippines Reports Chinese Ship Movement Around Disputed Reefs
By FLOYD WHALEY
By FLOYD WHALEY
This photo taken by surveillance planes and released in May by the Philippine Department ofForeign Affairs shows a Chinese vessel used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the disputed Spratly Islands.
MANILA — China is moving ships around disputed reefs in the South China Sea that could be used to reclaim land and build structures, President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines said on Thursday.
The statement by Mr. Aquino comes as China has been more aggressive in pushing its territorial claims in the South China Sea, having recently enraged Vietnam by placing an oil rig in disputed waters.
Philippine officials said the Chinese ships were photographed from the air near the Gaven and Calderon Reefs, two areas of the Spratly Islands, a part of the South China Sea that includes reefs and islets claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam.
“Based on the latest report that we have received, we are bothered that there seem to be developments in other areas within the disputed seas,” Mr. Aquino told reporters, speaking in Tagalog.
"There appears to be movement of ships".
Last month, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs released aerial photos of what was an extensive Chinese reclamation project on Johnson South Reef, called Mabini Reef by the Philippines, which is claimed by both countries.
President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines criticized China for moving ships capable of reclaiming land around the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Albert del Rosario, the foreign affairs secretary of the Philippines, has said in interviews that the structure being built by China on Johnson South Reef could be an airstrip or military base.
The Philippines filed a diplomatic note protesting China’s activities on the reef, and China responded that the area was Chinese territory.
Mr. del Rosario said on Thursday that the Philippines was considering filing a diplomatic protest related to the recent ship movements around the Gaven and Calderon Reefs.
A Chinese Coast Guard vessel attempted to block a Philippine government vessel from entering a disputed shoal in March to replace Philippine troops and resupply provisions off the South China Sea.
“We’re taking a good look as to what’s happening there,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“We aren’t certain, but we know there are some movements there.”
The reefs are among dozens of areas in the South China Sea claimed by China, which considers most of the waters to be Chinese territory.
The Philippines, Vietnam and other countries around the sea claim many of the reefs as well and note that some of the areas claimed by China lie near their shores.
Philippine maritime police unloaded endangered sea turtles confiscated in May from a Chinese-flagged vessel seized off the disputed Half Moon Shoal.
The Philippines has taken its claims in the South China Sea to a United Nations tribunal for arbitration, but so far China has refused to participate.
On Wednesday, the tribunal asked China to respond to the Philippine claims by Dec. 15.
On Wednesday, Charles Jose, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines, reiterated his government’s appeal for China to participate in arbitration.
“We continue to urge China to reconsider its decision not to participate in the arbitration proceedings,” he said.
“We also wish to reiterate that arbitration is a peaceful, open and friendly resolution mechanism that offers a durable solution to the disputes in the South China Sea.”
Last month, the Philippines charged nine Chinese fishermen with poaching after it said their ship was found carrying endangered sea turtles in an area claimed by both countries.