MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine military denied new allegations it also has reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), dismissing it as Beijing's attempt to weaken Manila's arbitration case.
"We are not doing anything inside the areas that we control. We could easily repair our runway, but the instruction is to await for the decision of the ITLOS (International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea) before we can decide our next moves," said Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr on Thursday, April 30.
The photographs will tell the true story, added Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez. He is the commanding officer of Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom), the military unit responsible for the country's territorial defense.
"We are not doing any reclamation activities.... Let pictures speak of what they're doing against ours," Lopez said.
"As far as we are concerned, we are supporting the national policy. We’re not doing anything that would weaken our arbitraiton case. We’re sticking to that game plan," Lopez added.
Facing international criticism over its massive reclamation activites in the disputed areas, China, through its Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Le, in a new statement accused the Philippines of reclamation activities in Pag-Asa (Tithu) Island to build an airport and expand a wharf, according to a Reuters report.
Pag-Asa Island is the second biggest island in the West Philippine Sea and is inhabited by a small community of Filipinos. It has an operational runway but is in dire need of repairs.
The Philippines has repeatedly delayed plans to fix the runway in Pag-Asa as it awaits the ruling of the arbitration court that is expected in 2016.
China, on the other hand, has reclaimed 7 reefs in the South China Sea and turned them into artifical islands. (IN PHOTOS: China's reclamation in West PH Sea as of April 2015)