By Francis Wakefield
FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said that the defense department is ready to file a diplomatic protest versus China through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) over its alleged militarization of Fiery Cross Reef or Kagitingan Reef.
Lorenzana made the remark after reports circulated that Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, has been transformed into a fortified airbase complete with military installations.
The report also stated that more than 200 soldiers are also stationed on Fiery Cross.
“Our stand (is that) we will continue to establish….or to register our protest through the Department of Foreign Affairs because I know for a fact that sometime ago the Chinese government said that they are not going to militarize those reclaimed islands. Remember, those are not islands before they are only reefs, but they are now islands but according to them they are not militarizing, and it was for peaceful purposes only like tourism,” Lorenzana said.
“But if it is true and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers even any weapons, defensive or otherwise, that will be a violation of what they said,” Lorenzana added.
Lorenzana said the DFA also knows this so they will let them register their protest.
He added that the government has a West Philippine Sea Task Force under National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and they are the ones exactly communicating with the DFA regarding the situation.
Earlier, a yearend feature aired by Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television showed an aerial shot of Fiery Cross Reef which has transformed into a big island.
Hong Kong-based news site Asia Times reported that the island now features a 3,125-meter runway for 6K strategic bombers to land.
The island also has a hospital and military facilities including early warning radars and close-proximity weapons systems.
Lorenzana, at the same time, revealed that they have been receiving reports that some Filipino fishermen were being harassed by Chinese Coast Guard thus the need to also file a protest.
“I don’t know (if a protest has already been filed). I haven’t checked with the DFA yet but it’s part of the normal diplomatic processes to file a protest if there are things you do not want from happening in that area,” Lorenzana said.
Tags: China, Department of Foreign Affairs, DFA, diplomatic protest, Fiery Cross, Fiery Cross Reef, Lorenzana, Manila Bulletin, Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Spratly Islands, West Philippine Sea Task Force