Lorenzana: PHL should protest Chinese structures in Spratlys


DEFENSE SECRETARY Delfin N. Lorenzana said on Monday, July 3, the Philippines will likely “protest” China’s reported militarization of the disputed South China Sea, following an update by a US think tank on Chinese military facilities there.

In a report dated June 29, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said China has built new missile shelters and communications facilities on Fiery Cross (or Kagitingan, as named by the Philippines), Mischief (Panganiban), and Subi (Zamora) Reefs in the Spratly Islands, about 230 miles southwest of the country’s archipelago province of Palawan.

“Kailangan mag-protest tayo diyan (We should protest that),” Mr. Lorenzana said when interviewed by reporters. “’Di natin pabayaan ’yan (We won’t leave that be).”

“Pinag-aaralan pa namin kung meron ba talagang dagdag, kasi yung nakita kong picture doon ngayon na pinapakita ng CSIS, halos wala akong makitang pagbabago (We are still studying if there are really additional defense structures, because based on the pictures that CSIS showed, I don’t see any changes from the previous satellite images),” Mr. Lorenzana also said, adding that this would be discussed at the Cabinet meeting that Monday.

Last March, CSIS said Chinese structures on Spratlys believed to be for military purpose are near completion, adding that Beijing can now deploy defense assets, including warplanes and missile launchers “at any time.”

But the think tank also noted, “While the region is engaged in peaceful discussion, China remains committed to developing its power projection capabilities.”

In a related development that day, the leaders of China and the United States spoke in a scheduled call hours after relations came under renewed pressure as an American warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea.

Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald J. Trump discussed efforts to denuclearize North Korea and improve US-Chinese trade relations, though the ship’s passage was not mentioned in a White House readout of the conversation.

Relations between the two nations had been warmer since Messrs. Xi and Trump met in April, but Washington has taken a series of actions that have infuriated Beijing in recent days.