China Likely to Build More Islands Near Philippine Coast: Defense Minister
China will likely try to build a reef on the Philippines' coast, Delfin Lorenzana, Manila's defense secretary, said in an interview on Tuesday.
Lorenzana believes that Beijing would eventually claim the disputed Scarborough Shoal, noting that China has already created some islets and reefs in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and installed military facilities on many of them.
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Experts suggest that if Beijing will do the same installations on the Scarborough Shoal, then China would gain a strategic and effective military dominance on the disputed waters. And this is something that the US would also not easily accept.
"If we allow them, they will build. That's very, very disturbing. Very much [more] disturbing than Fiery Cross because this is so close to us," Lorenzana said, commenting on one of the Philippine-claimed reefs China has built on.
The Scarborough Shoal, which is located just 230 kilometers (143 miles) away from the Philippines' main island Luzon, sits in a very strategic position. Seen as a last physical resort, an outpost has been stationed at the Scarborough Shoal, where it would put Chinese fighter jets and missiles at a striking distance from US forces in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Pentagon will now allow any Chinese access to the territorial waters, in which many analysts suggested that this could be an act of war. Lorenzana, on the other hand, finds this "very troubling," noting that the Philippines would likely become the battleground in case conflict broke out.
Lorenzana also said that the Philippines would try to "manage" the disputed islands with China as the two countries would also work on other security problems including the continuous abduction of sailors and attack of vessels by Islamic State militants and Abu Sayyaf.