MANILA – The Philippines on Wednesday accused China of undertaking massive reclamation work on several reefs in the disputed South China Sea, expressing concern the activities could fuel tensions.
Evan Garcia, Manila’s deputy foreign minister, said the reclamation activities “are not a positive development to promote our common interests” and a clear violation of what had been agreed by China and Southeast Asian states in 2002.
“Just look at the photographs, these are huge activities that are designed to change the status quo,” Garcia told reporters at the end of a two-day bilateral strategic dialogue with the United States in Manila.
“It is not helpful in terms of finding a way forward and it is not an example of what anybody would understand as self-restraint.” Manila and Washington, the two closest and oldest allies in the region, discussed at length the conflicting claims in the South China Sea, a potential flash point in the Asia-Pacific region.
China lays claim to almost all of the South China Sea, believed to be rich with minerals and oil-and-gas deposits. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.
Some aerial photographs taken in October last year, seen by Reuters, showed several Chinese-occupied reefs in the Spratlys had grown five times in size with some new structures built and what appeared to be an airstrip.
Beijing says its actions are within the scope of Chinese sovereignty.