PH ‘studying’ reports of Chinese tourists on disputed reef

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Tuesday, January 19, said it is studying reports that a first batch of Chinese tourists has landed on a disputed Fiery Cross Reef in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). 

“We’re still studying carefully the matter,” Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr, for his part, said the DFA and other authorities have been tasked to monitor these reports.

Still, Coloma said that such reports remain a concern not only for the Philippines. He stressed the need to adhere to international law in resolving the West Philippine Sea dispute.

Hong Kong Free Press reported on Friday, January 15, that China “has allowed the first group of tourists to visit its controversial man-made island in the disputed South China Sea.

Quoting Sina News, Hong Kong Free Press said that “a Hainan Airlines plane carrying civilian visitors touched down on Fiery Cross Reef on Friday.”

“The tourists are all families of soldiers who are stationed on the island,” Hong Kong Free Press quoted Sina News as saying.

China has been building artificial islands in parts of the West Philippine Sea – including Fiery Cross Reef – to assert its ownership of the disputed waters.  

Recent satellite images showed the damage inflicted on coral reefs by these island-building activities.

The Philippines has repeatedly protested these island-building activities, but China has also consistently snubbed the Philippines’ protests. – 

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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