MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr on Wednesday, August 24, said China is possibly using "black sand" from the Philippines to build its artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
"There is evidence showing that indeed, black sand had been utilized from our territories, mined from there, and then used to undertake these reclamation activities, particularly in the Spratly Islands, where these reclamation activities have almost been completed," Yasay said in a Senate briefing on Wednesday.
Yasay said this information is based on findings of the intelligence community, the government's security cluster, and the West Philippine Sea Task Force.
China is building artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea to assert de facto control over the disputed waters. (READ: Photos show China building hangars in West PH Sea)
The island-building activities began before Manila won a historic case against China over the West Philippine Sea.
Yasay, however, said that "there is no definitive investigation or finding about whether or not black sand" was used to build China's artificial islands.
"We'll be happy to see through the results of the Senate investigation on this particular matter," Yasay said.
Yasay: 'They cannot just do that'
In Wednesday's Senate briefing, Yasay added there had been attempts to use Philippine black sand for reclamation activities in the contested Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal).
Yasay said: "The actual reclamation in Scarborough never took place. There were attempts to send vessels with black sand, with all the equipment, to start reclaiming Scarborough Shoal, but this was stopped by the Americans."
Senator Richard Gordon then asked Yasay about "the attitude" of the Philippines when the Chinese "take away our land, literally, not only our claims."
Yasay told Gordon: "In that particular instance, Mr Chairman, your honor, it is my position, it's the position of the Department of Foreign Affairs, that that particular activity is in violation of our territorial integrity or sovereignty rights."
"They cannot just do that. And if they will do that, it is our right to defend our territory against this encroachment," the Philippines' top diplomat said.
On China's reclamation activities in general, Yasay said on Wednesday: "For the international community, the red line is that this should be stopped. Right now, there should be no further reclamation activities." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.