AP on April 24, 2015, reported that the Philippines accused China of aggressive maneuvers against its reconnaissance plane and fishermen in disputed seas where Beijing has stepped up construction of artificial islands, but China reiterated its claim on the strategic waterways. Excerpts below:
A Chinese vessel flashed powerful lights and radioed the Philippine navy plane to leave the area near one of the islands in the Spratlys chain in the South China Sea, Philippine military spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.
“This is an aggressive action on the part of the Chinese vessel,” Cabunoc said. “They said, ‘You’re entering Chinese territory, leave.'”
He said the incident happened on Sunday closed to Subi Reef, which is near Pag-asa — also called Thitu — Island, which has been occupied by Philippine troops since the 1970s. Among the hundreds of Spratly isles, coral reefs and shoals, less than 50 are occupied by troops from countries with competing claims — the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
China claims most of the South China Sea on historical grounds and in recent years has dispatched more vessels and patrols to stake its claim, alarming neighbors.
The Philippines filed a case in 2013 with the international arbitration tribunal challenging China’s claims.
The head of the Philippine Fisheries Bureau, Asis Perez, called on global action to stop China’s reclamation activities, saying they caused massive coral destruction — about 311 hectares (768.6 acres) — that will take thousands of years to repair.
“This is not a simple dispute over territory, but there is actually a huge environmental impact that will affect not just us,” he said.