- PH released pictures of Chinese coast guard ships and island-building barges near Scarborough
- DND chief said China may be planning new reclamation project
- China denied building a new island in Scarborough Shoal
MANILA, Philippines – Amid the ongoing Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Laos, the government released pictures showing 10 Chinese ships loitering in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal.
According to Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the ships consisted of four Chinese Coast Guard vessels, four barges and two others. He said the presence of the ships could be a prelude to an attempt to form an artificial island in Scarborough Shoal.
“Actually, there are 10 ships, four Coast Guard (vessels), four barges and two other manned vessels,” he told the Philippine Star. “What is suspicious is they have drums, things that appear to be containers. “We suspect that they’re testing the ground if their technology can reclaim underwater.”
Lorenzana added that a new island means the Chinese will just be a few miles away from Zambales.
“It is very worrisome. That area is ours. Once they seize an island, we can no longer recover it,” he said. “If they start reclamation and build structures, it can pose a risk to our security because it’s just 30 miles away from Masinloc town in Zambales.”
For its part, China’s Foreign Ministry denied their country was out to build new island in Scarborough Shoal.
“I can tell you that there has not been any change to the Huangyan Island situation. China has also not taken new actions,” spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
Hua also blasted the Philippines’ report as building up hype against China.
“Given this situation, some people are hyping the situation by spreading that kind of information. I think it is worth everyone being vigilant of this kind of intent,” she said.
The Chinese Embassy also confirmed the presence of the ships in Scarborough Shoal but said they are there for “law enforcement patrols”.