Philippines warns China as joint drills with US and Australia start

April 21, 2015 10:30 pm
More than 11,000 soldiers from the Philippines, and
will take part in joint drills in the South Sea, as the
Philippines’ military chief called China’s building work on disputed
reefs “worrisome” and a source of friction with its neighbours.

 11,600 , Philippine and Australian troops will take part. Photo / AP

The
reclamation “will cause tensions among claimant countries not only
because it could deter freedom of navigation but also because of its
possible military purposes,” General Gregorio Pio Catapang said.
China
must “stop the reclamation activities and be mindful of its
responsibilities as a claimant state and an important member of the
international community.”
The comments come as 11,600 Filipino,
US and Australian soldiers – twice as many as last year – are set to
join the war games off Palawan province near contested South China Sea
islands.

Disputes over the sea, of which China claims about four-fifths
under a so-called nine-dash line drawn on a 1940s map, have escalated
as China expands the reach of its military to back its territorial
interests.
The military drills, which run until April 30, seek to
“improve our interoperability and enhance our national defence
capability”, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Evan Garcia told reporters
after the opening of the annual Balikatan war games.
“Our armed forces needs to improve its own capacity in order to better serve and protect our country.”
Catapang
said the drills are not directed against China. He said a US plan to
deploy advanced air force and naval equipment in the Philippines was in
the works.
“We will offer them facilities that we can jointly use
because of the situation now obtaining in the West Philippine Sea,”
Catapang said, referring to the South China Sea.
China has often
stated its right to carry out construction work in the South China Sea,
with recent satellite photos showing Chinese dredgers at work at
Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, a feature also claimed by Vietnam,
the Philippines and Taiwan.
Catapang also accused China of tolerating harmful fishing practices by its fishermen in Scarborough Shoal.

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