|Tree Island in the Amphitrite Group, Paracel Islands|
By Christina Mendez and Jose Katigbak
MANILA, Philippines - Ticklish issues regarding the South China Sea – particularly China’s massive island building activities – may be discussed in the next meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, Malacañang said yesterday.
The Philippines had successfully lobbied for the exclusion of militarization of land features in disputed waters in the ASEAN communiqué released at the conclusion of the foreign ministers’ meeting in Manila recently.
“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,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said at a press briefing yesterday.
He stressed there is a need to verify the report and photographs presented by Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (AMTI-CSIS) about the continued reclamation activities in the South China Sea.
“It would be best if this apparent evidence can be vetted for accuracy, if only to preserve the trust and confidence that all disputants over the territory in South China Sea, South China… West Philippine, North Natuna Seas need to have… in each other going forward,” he explained. “So, we defer to ASEAN.”
Early this week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano described the think tank’s report as “false,” saying Beijing is “not reclaiming land anymore.”
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