MANILA, Philippines – Armed Forces spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said that China is possibly rushing the reclamation in the West Philippine Sea in order to thwart a ruling favoring the Philippines in the arbitration case filed before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
“In our assessment it’s part of their tactics,” Padilla said.
He alleged that China is speeding up the project in order to prove before the tribunal that human habitation and economic life are sustainable in the area. This way, it would give credence to the validity of their maritime claims, and support their assertion that such claims are binding.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang confirmed that China’s infrastructure development projects and reclamation activities in the disputed region are already at a 50-percent level of completion.
Among these is China’s reclamation of Mabini Reef, which officials say will soon be ready for military and civilian occupancy, upon completion of the many infrastructure projects on the man-made islet.
Large construction projects – such as buildings, a port, and a helipad – are also being carried out by China Burgos (Gaven) Reef, Kennar (Chigua) Reef and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef, which have all been reclaimed into islets.
For now, all the Philippine Military can do is monitor China’s illegal activities in the disputed territories, said Padilla, until the tribunal rules on the arbitration case.
‘“We have case at ITLOS and once the body rules in our favor, we expect that this will restrain China from conducting any activities in the region or they will lose face before the international community,” he said.
Philippine authorities assert that Chinese claims to areas of the South China Sea, its seabed included, cover areas which stretch up to 1,611 kilometers from the nearest Chinese coast, and are thus illegal under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; a treaty signed by both China and the Philippines.
To resolve the dispute, the Philippines filed an arbitration case with the UN tribunal in July 2013. China refused to answer the allegations.
The international body is expected to rule on the matter in 2016.