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Philippines responds to South China Sea 'encroachment'

December 22, 2022

The Philippines' Defense Ministry said it would boost its military presence following reports China embarked on fresh land reclamation projects in the South China Sea.

A satellite photo of Eldad Reef
The Eldad Reef is one of several formations that China has reportedly developedImage: Maxar Tech/AFP

The Philippines ordered its military to ramp up patrols in the South China Sea on Thursday in response to "Chinese activities" in the disputed waters.

Manila did not specify what activities it was referring to, but the announcement comes two days after a new report revealed Chinese land reclamation projects in the Spratly Islands.

"Any encroachment in the West Philippine Sea or reclamation on the features therein is a threat to the security of Pagasa Island," the Philippine defense ministry said on Thursday.

South China Sea: Fishing on the front line

Reports of new land reclamation

Low-lying islands and reefs in the South China Sea are disputed between China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

On Tuesday, news outlet Bloomberg published US satellite imagery that purported to show several years of Chinese land reclamation on a group of reefs and cays that are close to the island of Pagasa, also known as Thitu — an island held by the Philippines where military and coast guard detachments are based.

"We strongly urge China to uphold the prevailing rules-based international order and refrain from acts that will exacerbate tensions," the Philippine defense ministry said on Thursday, adding that it would investigate the Bloomberg report.

China's Foreign Ministry called the report "complely groundless."

On Thursday, the Chinese Embassy in Manila also said that China abides by the prevailing consensus in the disputed waters not to develop any uninhabited reefs or islands, adding that Beijing would "properly handle maritime issues through friendly consultations."

zc/wd (AFP, Reuters)