Sun, June 26, 2022


New construction seen on Chinese man-made island

China appeared to be carrying out new construction work on the artificial island it had built on Zamora (Subi) Reef in the West Philippine Sea over the last four months, according to US geospatial company Simularity.

The satellite images taken on May 5 were compared with those from December 15 last year, which showed work in progress at seven sites on the reef.

These areas showed construction equipment, land clearing and significant amounts of sand. One area, in particular, has new walls and parking lots, and new possible temporary structures, Simularity said.

The presence of equipment and additional materials may indicate construction is still in progress.

Another site indicated maintenance, expansion or addition of new features based on the changes observed, it said.

Zamora Reef is one of China’s “big three” man-made islands in the Spratlys chain. It has a three-kilometre runway, hangars, radars, missile shelters and weapons systems. It is about 25 kilometres west of Pag-as (Thitu) Island, the biggest island occupied by the Philippines in the Spratlys and the only one with civilian inhabitants.

China claims the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines, China, Brunei, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia have overlapping maritime claims in these waters.

An international arbitral tribunal ruled in 2016 to invalidate Beijing’s historical claims within its so-called nine-dash line. Beijing refuses to accept the ruling.

Simularity’s report is part of its South China Sea Rapid Alert service, which tracks the disputed waters daily.

In July last year, Simularity reported that Chinese ships anchored in parts of the West Philippines Sea were dumping “raw sewage every day onto the reefs they are occupying”.

“When the ships don’t move, the poop piles up,” Liz Derr, co-founder and CEO of Simularity, said during a forum hosted by Stratbase ADR Institute on the fifth anniversary of the Philippines’ 2016 court victory against China.

Simularity earlier reported that between May 13 and May 18, 2021, it found a total of 261 Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea: 234 at Burgos (Gaven) Reef, 18 near Pag-asa, and nine at McKennan (Hughes) Reef. Of these, at least 120 were within the Philippines’ 370-kilometre exclusive economic zone.

The “swarm” of Chinese vessels in Philippine waters triggered a diplomatic protest from Manila.

By Frances Mangosing

Asia News Network: The Nation (Thailand), The Korea Herald, The Straits Times (Singapore), China Daily, Jakarta Post, The Star and Sin Chew Daily (Malaysia), The Statesman (India), Philippine Daily Inquirer, Yomiuri Shimbun and The Japan News, Gogo Mongolia, Dawn (Pakistan), The Island (Sri Lanka), Kuensel (Bhutan), Kathmandu Post (Nepal), Daily Star (Bangladesh), Eleven Media (Myanmar), the Phnom Penh Post and Rasmei Kampuchea (Cambodia), The Borneo Bulletin (Brunei), Vietnam News, and Vientiane Times (Laos).

Published : May 11, 2022

By : Philippine Daily Inquirer