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PH says China likely building a military base in Spratlys

Carmela Fonbuena

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Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin admits China's activities on Mabini Reef were not immediately monitored because of the country's limited assets

'30 HECTARES.' The Philippines slams China for its 'excessive reclamation' as shown in this photo dated March 11, 2014. Photo courtesy of DFA

MANILA , Philippines – Philippines Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin is quite certain China is reclaiming land on Mabini (Johnson) Reef not only to build an airstrip but to establish another military base in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea).

“They have been conducting reclamation. For whatever purpose, we still do not know…. But we are almost sure that there’ll be a base,” Gazmin told reporters on Thursday, May 15, on the sidelines of joint military exercises between Filipino and American troops here.

The construction activities were first monitored by the Philippines in February 2014. On Thursday, May 15, the Department of Foreign Affairs released photos of China’s “destabilizing” moves in the disputed  seas. (See photos here)

The Philippines said China’s “extensive reclamation” on Mabini Reef in the Spratly Islands violates the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by China and ASEAN member-nations in Cambodia on November 4, 2002.

The DOC states: “The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.” 

Gazmin admitted the reclamation on Mabini was not immediately monitored by the Philippines because of the country’s limited assets. 

He emphasized that this is where the PH-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) can come in, to address gaps in military equipment. The new deal allows the US military to store and preposition defense assets and to build facilities inside Philippine military bases. “Kulang tayo sa capability natin kaya nga kailangan natin ng mga makakatulong natin gaya nitong mga Amerikano para sa ganoon ay ma-address natin mga gaps na wala tayo,” Gazmin said. –

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