MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is seeking confirmation of a report that China is set to establish an outpost on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, a Palace official said yesterday.
“The alleged move of establishing an outpost within the EEZ of the Philippines came from a news report, which needs appropriate validation and confirmation,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.
“The Philippines abides by the Declaration (on) the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). Thus, it is best that claimant-states that are also signatories to those agreements abide by their provisions,” he said.
A Hong Kong newspaper recently quoted a source close to the People’s Liberation Army as saying that China would build an outpost on Panatag Shoal.
Earlier, Admiral John Richardson, America’s chief of naval operations, was quoted in reports as saying he was seeing unusual increased ship activities near the shoal, including those by some survey ships, although there were no physical signs of reclamation yet.
Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc lies only 118 nautical miles off Zambales. The shoal, a traditional Filipino fishing ground, has been under Chinese control since 2012 following a standoff between Chinese vessels and the Philippine Navy. The Chinese prevented the Philippine Navy from arresting Chinese poachers in the area. The Chinese have not left the shoal since then.