Historian: Reefs' reclamation China’s way to assert claim

Historian: Reefs' reclamation China’s way to assert claim
The Pagasa (Hope) Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines is seen in this July 20, 2011 file photo.

MANILA - China's land reclamation on reefs in the West Philippine Sea is its way of asserting its claim to almost the entire South China Sea that no other country recognises, a Filipino security expert said on Saturday.

Jose Antonio Custodio, a security expert and military historian, also warned that the Philippines was already losing its territory to the Chinese.

With the reclamation of land on various reefs in the Spratly Islands, the Chinese are "expanding," Custodio told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

"De facto, they are practically occupying areas that we claim … and strengthening the nine-dash line," Custodio said, referring to China's demarcation on official maps of its claim over 90 per cent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea.

President Benigno Aquino III said on Thursday that Chinese ships had been monitored moving toward other reefs in the West Philippine Sea, possibly to reclaim land at Gavin Reefs (Gaven Reefs) and Calderon Reef (Cuarteron Reef).

China is also reclaiming land on Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef) and Malvar Reef (Eldad Reef).

Chinese blockade

"Once they (Chinese) are able to consolidate, they would use this in an effort to establish a much more effective blockade … to intercept any movement from our side whether it is the military, the Coast Guard or even ordinary fishermen," Custodio said.

He said the gradual developments initiated by China in the disputed territories would ultimately shut out the Philippines in its own exclusive economic zone.

China, Custodio said, is establishing a chain of occupied territories in the West Philippine Sea, "cutting off the garrisons, hoping that we ourselves would pull out, finding it unsustainable to keep our garrisons there."

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