The Philippine government expects China to try another build-up on a reef within the Scarborough Shoal, which sits just 230 kilometers from the main Philippine island of Luzon, defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a media interview.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

Lorenzana said he believed China would eventually reclaim the Scarborough Shoal, a move he said would be “unacceptable” and could be a flashpoint for a naval military conflict.

China reclaimed a number of islets and reefs on Spratly, turned it into artificial islands, installed modern military facilities and defense weaponry on them. Military analysts say that similar installations on Scarborough Shoal could give China powerful and effective military control over the disputed waterway, something the United States has said it is not set up to acknowledge.

Lorenzana said “They encroached,” a 2012 encounter that saw Philippine vessels displaced. “They occupied three islands there plus they are trying to get Scarborough. So to us, that is unacceptable”.

“If we allow them, they will build. That’s very, very disturbing. Very much (more) disturbing than Fiery Cross because this is so close to us,” Lorenzana said, alluding to one of the Philippine-claimed reefs China has built and based on.

Moreover, Lorenzana said Chinese island-reclamation efforts were intended to control the West Philippine Sea and the whole South China Sea.

Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc

“That could be their strategy to counter any superpower that would encroach on the South China Sea because they believe the South China Sea is - that’s like their lake to them - theirs,” Lorenzana added.

A year ago, the former president, Benigno Aquino III brought a case to a UN-backed tribunal. The ruling favors the Philippines. It ruled that China had no legal basis on the so-called “nine-dash-line” which invalids Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea.- Jason E.