MANILA, Philippines – China has opened a "maritime rescue center" on Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) "to better protect navigation and transport safety," Chinese state media reported.
China's transport ministry said the center "will offer better support to maritime rescue operations in the southern part of the South China Sea," according to a Xinhua news report on Tuesday, January 29.
Rappler is still trying to reach the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs for comment as of posting time.
China had said it plans to use its artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea for humanitarian purposes, but experts warn that China is militarizing these waters.
Xinhua said that on July 27, 2018, the Chinese transport ministry also sent a rescue ship to Zamora Reef (Subi Reef) in the West Philippine Sea "tasking it with emergency response operations."
A replacement ship was sent in October of the same year, Xinhua said.
Xinhua said that over the past 6 months, "the two ships have rescued 16 people and two ships in 8 operations." This reportedly led to the salvaging of 12 million yuan or $1.7 million in property.
Weather stations, missiles
China in November 2018 said it has started to operate weather stations in the West Philippine Sea, but Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr thumbed down the filing of diplomatic protests against China. He also challenged the media to verify for themselves if China indeed installed weather stations in the West Philippine Sea.
The US network CNBC also reported in May 2018 that China has installed missiles in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines owns the exclusive rights to explore and exploit the West Philippine Sea based on a July 2016 international ruling, but China refuses to recognize this legal victory at The Hague.
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.