MALACAÑANG said Friday that Southeast Asian bloc should tackle China's continued land reclamation and militarization activities in the disputed South China Sea, if reports are proven to be "accurate."
Speaking to reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the authorities should verify first the reported reclamation activities of the Chinese government in several features in the contested waters.
Abella's statement was in response to the report of United States' (US) think tank, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), that China's reclamation efforts continue in the resource-rich South China Sea.
He said the concerns could then be discussed in the future meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) if China indeed proceeds with land reclamation and militarization.
“It would be best if this apparent evidence can be vetted for accuracy if only to preserve the trust and confidence,” Abella said.
“The continuing reclamation and militarization of disputed territory in these waters, if the report and photos from a Washington-based think tank are accurate, these can be taken up by the Asean in future discussions,” he added.
According to August 9 report by AMTI, China's reclamation work did not end in mid-2015 with the completion of its artificial islands in the Spratlys.
The report came after the Asean's top diplomats released a joint communiqué on August 6, expressing concerns of some foreign ministers over land reclamations in the South China Sea.
The Asean foreign ministers’ joint statement said the reclamation activities in the disputed waters “have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security, and stability in the region.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, chair of this year's Asean foreign ministers meetings, admitted that he did not want land reclamation and militarization in the South China Sea to be mentioned in the joint communiqué.
Cayetano stressed Chinese government was "not reclaiming land any more" but AMTI said the statement of Philippines' top diplomat was "false."
"Beijing continues to reclaim land farther north, in the Paracel Islands. The two most recent examples of this are at Tree Island and North Island in the Amphitrite Group," the think tank said.
"AMTI previously reported on work at these features, which has continued in recent months," it added. (SunStar Philippines)