MANILA – The presence of several Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal (Bajo De Masinloc), which lies 123 miles of Subic Bay, Zambales, is a precursor to possible building of structures in the area.
This was stressed by Department of National Defense (DND) public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong in an interview Wednesday.
“We believed that this is precursor to possible building of structures on the shoal, which is why we are gravely concerned about this development especially (as) the shoal is well within our exclusive economic (zone) and we like to point out that the Ambassador of China denied this only a week ago,” he added.
Earlier, the DND released pictures of the Chinese vessels lying off Scarborough Shoal. The photos were taken by Filipino military aircraft on overflight missions to the area last Sept. 3.
But prior the overflight, Andolong said the DND has prior knowledge of Chinese activity in the shoal as Philippine ships are regularly patrolling the area.
He added that DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana decided to make the information public after learning that the number of Chinese ships in Scarborough Shoal has increased.
The DND chief earlier said that there are 10 Chinese ships in the area, with four looking like Chinese Coast Guard ships, four similar to barges and two resembling troop ships.
And when asked what the DND and the military is planning to do, Andolong said they continue to monitor and conduct surveillance operations but said further action will depend on the order of the Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
China gained control of Scarborough Shoal after a tense stand-off with Philippine Navy units in 2012.
Its maritime law enforcement units have been consistently driving away Filipinos they spot in the area.
Last July 12, the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated China’s claim over its “historic rights” to the West Philippine Sea and also pointed out that its ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ claim has no legal basis.