Five Chinese Coast Guard ships spotted in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal located off the coast of Zambales in Luzon, making local fishermen more fearful about going back to the disputed isle.
The head of US naval operations, Admiral John Richardson, expressed concern that an international court ruling expected in coming weeks in a case brought by the Philippines against China over its South China Sea claims could be the reason China fast-tracking its activity in this location.
He said the US military had seen Chinese activity around Scarborough Shoal in the northern part of the Spratly archipelago, about 200km (125 miles) west of the Philippine base of Subic Bay.
“I think we see some surface ship activity and those sorts of things, survey type of activity, going on. That’s an area of concern … a next possible area of reclamation,” he said.
Department of National Defense spokesperson Peter Galvez (DND) told the Inquirer by phone that five coast guard vessels simultaneously in the area were “more than the usual.”
But the DND on Friday said it had yet to receive reports on the presence of five Chinese Coast Guard vessels at Scarborough Shoal.
Also Last week, Australian intelligence agencies voice concerns that China is poised to take “decisive and provocative action” in West Philippine Sea in advance of the ruling by the Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Count of Arbitration in The Hague.
China’s pursuit of South China Sea territory, which has included massive land reclamation to create artificial islands elsewhere in the Spratly, threatened to reverse decades of open access and introduce new “rules” that required countries to obtain permission before transiting those waters and if China changed over Scarborough Shoal into a manufactured island and built a landing strip and harbor, it would have the basic infrastructure to prevent the Philippines from operating in the waters of the Spratly islands, leaving Pag-asa island and Second Thomas Shoal exposed and isolated.-Carl E.