MANILA, Philippines — Was the Philippine government really unaware of where China has been expanding in the disputed South China Sea as claimed by Malacañang?
The Philippines claims parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea.
Last week, Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times carried a report by China’s National Marine Data and Information Service saying that Beijing this year has “reasonably expanded” the area covered by its man-made islands.
The expansion work in the contested sea were made to enhance China’s military capability “within its sovereign scope” and to “help locals,” the report said.
Global Times said the construction projects there, including radar facilities, covered about 290,000 square meters — a number that was similar to one provided by US think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative last December 14.
Responding to China’s reported expansion activities, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters in a text message on December 25 that the government “[doesn’t] know where these works are.”
“We continue to rely on China’s good faith,” Roque added.
Defense department aware of reclamation
However, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had a different response.
Asked if security officials were aware of the locations of Beijing’s enhancement activities on its artificial islands, Lorenzana, in an interview with Philstar.com, said: “Of course! We have known where they reclaimed and what improvements they have been doing.”
In its December 14 report, AMTI identified all permanent facilities that can be used for military purposes that China completed or began work since the start of the year.