Philippines plans military upgrades to disputed South China Sea outposts

The Philippines has said it plans to develop islands and reefs in the South China Sea that are the subject of contesting claims from China.

The upgrades to the territorial features will seek to make them liveable for troops, Manila’s military chief Romeo Brawner said on Monday. The announcement came amid simmering tensions between the Philippines and China.

“We’d like to improve all the nine, especially the islands we are occupying,” Brawner said, referring to the nine features, including reefs and islands, it occupies in the South China Sea.

These include the Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin, as well as Thitu Island, the biggest and most strategically important in the South China Sea.

Known locally as Pag-asa, Thitu lies about  480km (300 miles) west of the Philippine province of Palawan.

The military wishes to install a desalination machine on a warship that the Philippines deliberately grounded on Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to assert its sovereignty claim, Brawner said.The Philippines’ military also plans on acquiring more ships, radars and aircraft as Manila shifts its focus from internal defence to territorial defence, Brawner said.

Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim sovereignty of areas in the South China Sea, which is a conduit for goods with a value in excess of $3 trillion annually.

However, Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea and ignores an international tribunal which stipulated that its assertions have no legal basis.

Recent months have seen Beijing in tense standoffs with the Philippines, as vessels have jostled around the disputed reefs in the area, which even led to a collision on one occasion. Chinese ships also blasted a water cannon at Philippine boats.

Related Articles

Back to top button