Mischievous China makes more mischief


SOMETIME in February 1995, it was reported that China had built a number of octagonal huts on Mischief Reef in the Spratly islands group. The report was confirmed by Philippine Air Force air intelligence photographs taken by aerial reconnaissance missions that were sent to Mischief Reef by then Col. Melchor Rosales who was A-2 (Air Intelligence chief) at that time.

As a result of the findings, the government lodged a diplomatic protest with Beijing.

According to then Foreign Undersecretary Lauro Baja Jr., this was how China reacted to our protest: “Initially, the Chinese Foreign Ministry denied knowledge of the occupation and establishment of structures in the Reef. When pictures of the structures and vessels in Mischief Reef appeared in the newspapers, the Chinese modified their story by saying that the structures were authorized by the local fishing authorities to serve as shelters for Chinese fishermen. Later when they were asked to direct those authorities to dismantle the structures, Beijing officials said it would be difficult to explain such a move to their people, considering that they have ‘indisputable sovereignty’ over the area. Moreover, they added, Filipino fishermen along with other nationals would be later allowed to use the facilities.”
After months of huffing and puffing and exchange of diplomatic notes, an informal code of conduct was agreed upon, calling for the settlement of disputes in a peaceful and friendly manner through consultations. For a while, nothing much was heard about the Spratlys.

In November 1996, Chinese President Jiang Zemin paid a state visit to the Philippines, the first ever by a Chinese head of state. One of the highlights of his stay was a musical program on board the presidential ship Ang Pangulo. Here, Presidents Jiang Zemin and Fidel V. Ramos joined in crooning popular melodies like “Love Me Tender” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

Two years later, aerial photographs taken by the PAF showed that during the Jiang-Ramos songfest, construction work on the reef did not slow down but instead proceeded at a faster clip, resulting in the construction of a 300-meter pier, new barracks, and what appeared to be some kind of command center for communications and control.

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