We have written so much about China’s invasion in our own backyard, in our previous articles, but this one is another alarming concern.
The Asia Maritim Transparency Initiative (AMTI) says the landing of a Shaanxi Y8 military plane (US equivalent of C130’s?) should be especially galling to the Philippines, which has 100 civilians and a small military garrison on Pagasa Island just 22 kilometers away.
A major national news report, further says that “Malacanang need no more wait to acquire technology to verify and protest China’s clear and visual violation of the Philippines sovereignty in the part of our archipelago.”
Satellite imagery has shown the first confirmed landing by China of a military aircraft on Zamora Reef in the Spratlys, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative 9AMTI) at the think tank Center for Strategic Planning in Washington.
AMTI published the pictures, taken on April 28, 2018, on its website showing a Shaanxi Y8 military plane on Zamora Reef 9internationally known as Subi Reef), one of the seven Philippine claimed features in the Spratlys that China has seized and transformed into artificial islands from which to project its military might in the South China Sea.
The other six Philippine reefs that China has taken over and developed into military outposts in the Spratlys are Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Calderon (Cuarteron), Burgos (Gaven), Mabini (Johnson South), Panagniban (Mischief) and McKennan (Hughes).
Accordingly, the Y8 Plane was designed as a military transport aircraft, but some variants are used for maritime patrol or signals intelligence, AMTI said, warning that the landing on Zamora should be particularly concerning to the Philippines, which has 100 civilians and a small military garrison on Pagasa (Thitu) Island just 22 kilometers away. With the Zamora deployment. military aircraft have now verifiably landed” on all three airstrips that China has built in the Spratlys, AMTI said.
The first was a “naval patrol aircraft” possibly a Y8 or similar plane, which landed on Kagitingan Reef in April 2006 to evacuate three people who had fallen ill, it said.
“That landing was especially galling for the Philippines because an arbitral tribunal in 2016 ruled that Panganiban Reef is a piece of the Philippine continental shelf,” AMTI said, referring to the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague that invalidated China’s claim to 90% of the South China Sea.
In addition to patrol and transport planes, the agency said, China has recently deployed other mi8litary platforms to the ‘Big Three” outposts at Kagitingan, Panganiban and Zamora Reefs.
On April 9, The Wall Street Journal published satellite photos commissioned by the US government that showed military jamming equipment that showed military jamming equipment mounted on three trucks on Panganiban Reef in March.
The article cited a US official who said then jamming systems were deployed to Kagitingan as well. AMTI said it had confirmed the systems were visible in satellite imagery of Panganiban from at least mid February, 2018 and were still present as of May 6, although placed under covers.
Then on May 2, US news network CNBC, citing US intelligence sources, reported that China had deployed YJ 12B antiship cruise and HQ9B surface to air missile systems on Kagitingan, Panganiban and Zamora reefs as part of military exercises in early April.
China constructed missile shelters on the reefs in early 2017, AMTI said, but the April deployments were the first confirmed placement of such platforms on the three reefs.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has expressed concern over the missile deployments but has not said what it intends to do.
Roque, however, said the government was acquiring equipment for verification.
AMTI said China could be using the pattern it set at Woody island, the largest of the Paracels, farther north, which are claimed by Vietnam, in the Spratlys.
“China has repeatedly deployed J10 and J11 fighter jets to Woody island,” it said. “Considering that China has built identical hangars for combat aircraft at Woody and on each of the Big Three, it is likely that J10’s or J11’s will soon find their way south to the Spratly Islands.”
The deployment of Harbin Z8 transport helicopters and a surveillance Harbin BZK005 drone, believed to have been sighted on Woody island in 2016, may also be expected in then Spratlys, it added.
AMTI said there had been a growing presence of People’s Liberation Army navy 9PLAN), China Coast Guard (CCG) and fishing fleets at Kagitingan, Panganiban and Zamora.
“Satellite images show that PLAN destroyers, frigates and other combat ships and CCG patrol vessels regularly visit the artificial islands, along with many auxiliary and logistics vessels, AMTI said.
“The ubiquity of PLAN and CCG ships in images of (Kagitingan, Panganiban and Zamora reefs) since the start of 2017 suggests how robust the PLAN and CCG presence at the island bases has become,” it added.
There was no immediate comment from Malacanang of DFA this week and the Senate plans to open an inquiry into the Chinese missile deployments on Kagitingan, Panganiban and Zamora sometime this latter of May, 2018.
Meanwhile, President Duterte draws more flak!
The Duterte administration continued to draw flak for its defeatist stance on China’s militarization of the South China sea, describing Malacanang’s position as pessimism when it could do more than just accept it.
“Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque implied helplessness and instead resorted to passing the blame to the Aquino administration”, referring to Roque’s statement that China’s artificial island building during the administration of former President Aquino.
Aerial photographs published by a major newspaper showed China was nearing completion of these military facilities on seven Philippine claimed reefs in the Spratly archipelago.
“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything about these artificial islands, what do they want us to do/’ Roque said, commenting on a special report. “We cannot declare war.’
Casilao, an oppositionist, agreed that the Philippines could not go to war against China but said the government could at least lodge a diplomatic protest and condemn its militarization of the South China Sea.
“It is also mind bending that the administration is backtracking when the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 has favored the country.”
My Personal Opinion
The continuing joke by President’s Duterte that Philippines may better be a Philippines Province, a province of China, may no longer be a joke anymore. However, I know for sure that this administration is not just watching and doing nothing. It is just waiting for the right timing before it can assert the Philippines sovereign rights in these part of our own West Philippine Sea, amidst, the BUILD, BUILD, BUILD cooperation with China.
There is patience to those who wait and who knows protecting our sovereign properties as well as a joint venture arrangement, among us, may create a better economic advantage for all claimant countries including our neighbors. Let’s not rush for now, let’s just wait and see. After all, Uncle Sam will not leave us behind considering the area’s vast natural resources, they themselves are interested as well.