MANILA, Philippines – The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday, September 5, denied that China “had built concrete facilities” in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal after the Philippines released photos of concrete blocks allegedly installed by China.
In a brief question-and-answer statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei addressed the following question: “The Philippine side reportedly said that China had built concrete facilities on the Huangyan Island. Please confirm.”
Hong said, “What the Philippines said is untrue."
Besides, he explained, the disputed shoal that China calls Huangyan Island “is China's inherent territory.”
“Given the current situation, Chinese government ships maintain routine patrol in the waters off the Huangyan Island to safeguard the sovereignty over the Huangyan Island and keep order in relevant waters. It is within China's legitimate rights and interests and beyond dispute,” Hong said.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, for his part, on Thursday said the Philippines eyes using against China the reported installation of Chinese blocks.
“I think that's a substantive piece of information that we can tack on to our arbitration case. We can have it work positively for us,” Del Rosario said in an interview with reporters after his speech at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) budget hearing at the House of Representatives. (Watch the video below.)
Del Rosario added the Philippines will file a diplomatic protest over the installations in the West Philippine Sea, particularly the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. He said the Philippines will file this protest "in the next few days."
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told lawmakers on Tuesday, September 3, that China has installed “concrete blocks” in Panatag. He described it as an obvious “prelude to construction.”
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.