DFA verifying report on China building third airstrip in disputed territory

Protesters rally in front of the Chinese Consulate in Makati City on Tuesday, denouncing China's claim to most of the West Philippine Sea including areas claimed by the Philippines. The protest comes as a UN tribunal in the Hague begins a hearing the Philippines' claim on the disputed Spratly Islands.(MNS photo)

Protesters rally in front of the Chinese Consulate in Makati City on Tuesday, denouncing China’s claim to most of the West Philippine Sea including areas claimed by the Philippines. The protest comes as a UN tribunal in the Hague begins a hearing the Philippines’ claim on the disputed Spratly Islands.(MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is verifying reports that China is building a third airstrip over contested territory in the South China Sea.

The DFA is verifying information from US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies that China is set to build a 3,000-meter airstrip at the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, which is among the disputed areas.

The structure is big enough to accommodate most of China’s military aircraft, the US think tank said, adding that it is similar to structures China has been constructing in other contested territories Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef and at Zamora (Subi) Reef.

A Reuters report quoted Greg Poling, CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative director, as saying that the work at Panganiban Reef “more likely than not indicates preparations for a runway” there.

For his part, however, Armed Forces Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez said it is unlikely that China might be building a third airstrip as the reef’s shape is “irregular” and slightly “oblongated.”

The Western Mindanao Command said they continue to monitor reclamation activities in the three reefs.

China’s dredging equipment is also there in the area, it said. (MNS)

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