MANILA–The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday denied earlier reports that they are about to start preparatory work this year for an environmental monitoring station on disputed Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) which is within the Philippines’ 100 mile special economic zone (EEZ).
It took the Chinese government five days to deny the statement made by Sansha City Mayor Xiao Jie that China is planning to build structures on Bajo de Masinloc which was published in Hainan Daily newspaper recently. The same paper corrected the false report.
“China places great importance on the preservation of the South China Sea’s ocean ecology, this is certain,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a press briefing.
“According to the relevant bodies in China, the reports you mention that touch upon building environmental monitoring stations on Scarborough Shoal are mistaken, these things are not true,” she said.
“With regards to Scarborough Shoal, China’s position is consistent and clear. We place great importance on China-Philippines relations,” she added.
China seized the shoal which is northeast of the Spratly islands in 2012, and denied access to Philippine fishermen, but after President Rodrigo Duterte visited China last year, they allowed Filipino fishermen to return in the fishing grounds.
The Department of Foreign Affairs was quick to send a note verbale to China asking for an official explanation.
“We have sought clarification from China on reported plans on Scarborough Shoal,” DFA Spokesman and Assistant Secretary Charles Jose was quoted as saying.
In a separate interview, Jose emphasized the importance of strengthening the country’s defense and maritime domain awareness capabilities.