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Philippines deploys ships to disputed South China Sea amid reports China building ‘artificial island’

The Philippines on Saturday deployed ships to a disputed area in the South China Sea, where it accused the People’s Republic of China (PRC) of building an “artificial island” amid the two Asian countries’s ongoing conflict over the territory, the office of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a statement.

“The Philippine Coast Guard (PGC) has deployed its BRP Teresa Magbanua to monitor the supposed illegal activities of China, creating an ‘artificial island’ on Escoda Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) by destroying the coral reefs,” the statement read.

According to Jay Tarriela, the spokesperson for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), China has deployed vessels and divers to explore the Sabina Shoal, which Manila calls the Escoda Shoal, for reclamation. In response to the Chinese research vessels, the PCG has deployed patrol vessels, as well as inflatable boats, to monitor the undertaking and deter China’s activities near the Philippines’ coast.

The Escoda Shoal is an atoll in the Spratly Islands, a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea. The Philippines claims it falls under the jurisdiction of the province of Palawan. However, China also claims sovereignty over the area.

“China’s deployment of Chinese Maritime Militia, Chinese Coast Guard, PLA Navy, and Chinese research vessels close to the coastline of Palawan is concerning,” Tarriela wrote in a statement posted to X (formerly Twitter). “Not only does this pose a threat to our sovereignty, but it also causes significant damage to our marine environment.”

Further deepening the countries’s bilateral rift, the Philippine national security adviser, Eduardo Año, on Friday called for the expulsion of several high-ranking Chinese diplomats over an alleged leak of a phone conversation between Chinese diplomats and a Filipino admiral discussing the present dispute in the South China Sea.

“Bypassing official and long-established channels and protocols, talking to officials without the requisite authorities or bona fides, then maliciously claiming that alleged discussions should bind the PH government is farcical, foolish, and reckless,” the statement read. Citing Philippine laws and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Año called for the immediate removal of the individuals concerned.

The incident in the Spratly Islands adds to the growing tensions between the Philippines and the PRC in the South China Sea. Earlier this month, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) summoned a Chinese official in Manila, Zhou Zhyiong, after the Chinese coast guard attacked Filipino vessels on a humanitarian mission in Scarborough Shoal. In March, the Philippines accused China of carrying out a hostile attack on a Filipino supply boat near the Second Thomas Shoal.

Tarriela told reporters that the Philippine government was committed to maintaining a prolonged presence on the Escoda Shoal to document China’s alleged illegal activities and prevent the PRC from encroaching on Philippine sovereignty.

“We must work together to halt China’s ambitious goal of taking control of the entire West Philippine Sea,” Tarriela said. “We should not be distracted by their false narratives, as China continues to carry out illegal actions without our awareness.”

He continued: “Let us remain focused and united in responding to these challenges, ensuring that we protect our territorial integrity and preserve the marine environment for future generations.”

The Chinese government has yet to issue a statement or comment at the time of publication.

Article: Philippines deploys ships to disputed South China Sea amid reports China building ‘artificial island’

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