Philippines insists on dialogue with China amid completed airbase in South China Sea
MANILA, Philippines — Following recent reports that one of the Manila-claimed features in the South China Sea has been transformed into a fortified airbase, the Philippine government insists on pursuing dialogue with China.
“The Philippines pursues cordial but frank dialogue with concerned parties on the issue of the South China Sea through various bilateral and multilateral platforms,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television recently aired aerial photos of Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef in the Spratly Islands, which is now a 2.8-square kilometer airbase.
Hong Kong-based Asia Times reported that the island contains a runway long enough for H-6K strategic bombers to land. The artificial island also has a hospital and military installations.
Fiery Cross Reef, reportedly the third largest island in the contested waters, has become a logistics hub in support of Beijing’s sovereignty claim over the South China Sea, according to the report.
The DFA, however, reiterated that the Philippines will not give up its territory in the disputed region as stated by Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano before.
“Nevertheless, Secretary Cayetano has stated several times that the Philippines will not be giving up a single inch of its territory in the South China Sea,” the DFA added.
In its July 2016 ruling, the United Nations-backed tribunal agreed that Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Fiery Cross Reef are rocks. This means that the three features appear during high tide but cannot sustain habitation or economic life. They are allowed a 12-nautical mile territorial sea.
The tribunal also ruled that China violated its obligations under the UNCLOS to protect and preserve the marine environment with its island-building activities at Fiery Cross Reef.