Palace backs US concern vs West PH Sea reclamation

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 23 2015 01:23 AM | Updated as of Aug 23 2015 09:23 AM

MANILA -- Malacanang on Saturday again expressed concern over China's land reclamation projects in the disputed Spratly islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In a radio interview, deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government has long expressed its concern over said project, including its effect on the environment.

Valte issued this statement following's US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's comments that the Chinese reclamation works in the disputed sea have created ''a very serious situation.''

"We have always expressed our concern on the reclamation that is being done; and, in fact, that is one of the points that we raised, not just on the matter of the maritime dispute, but also the impact on the environment that the reclamation has in our arbitration case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration," Valte said.

A new Pentagon report said that aside from reclaiming more land in the Spratlys, Beijing is also completing construction of a runway on one of its seven man-made outposts.

The report added that China could potentially use the airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef as an alternative runway for carrier-based planes, allowing the Chinese military to conduct "sustained operations" with aircraft carriers in the area.

Since China's land reclamation efforts began in December 2013, it had reclaimed more than 2,900 acres (1,170 hectares) of land as of June 2015, the report said. U.S. officials had previously put the total at 2,000 acres.

In a statement, China's Foreign Ministry said China had "completed the relevant island and reef area reclamation project" at the end of June.

China had reclaimed 17 times more land in 20 months than the other claimants combined over the past 40 years, accounting for approximately 95 percent of all reclaimed land in the Spratlys, it added.

"China is unilaterally altering the physical status quo in the region, thereby complicating diplomatic initiatives that could lower tensions," said the report. -- with a report from Reuters