Jaime Laude, The Philippine Star
7 January 2016
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – China is reportedly building a submarine harbor at Panganiban (Mischief) Reef located in the West Philippine Sea near Palawan, the Kalayaan Atin Ito (KAI) movement said yesterday.
KAI has just concluded its nationwide maritime and territorial campaign that was highlighted by the “Freedom Voyage” to the disputed Spratly Islands to protest China’s invasion of the country’s maritime domain.
“Palawan is just 135 nautical miles away from the Panganiban Reef, which is being developed by China into a submarine harbor,” KAI’s student volunteers said in their report after the Freedom Voyage.
Former Marine captain Nicanor Faeldon, who initiated a peaceful protest against China’s occupation of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in Zambales in 2012, led the student-volunteers during the trip to Pag-asa Island on Dec. 24.
Located within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, Panganiban Reef was first occupied by Beijing in 1995, purportedly as a shelter for fishermen.
China gradually developed the area and transformed it into a naval facility.
“This evil project does not concern the Filipino alone but the entire humanity, including the peace-loving Chinese people,” KAI said, referring to China’s ongoing reclamation and construction activities on Panganiban Reef.
The Philippine Navy (PN), tasked to secure and guard the country’s maritime domain, has yet to comment on KAI’s claims.
Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon said the KAI report needs further validation, noting the route taken by the student-volunteers during the Freedom Voyage as well as their return trip to Palawan was nowhere near Panganiban Reef.
Bito-onon said the only thing confirmed for now is that China is continuously fortifying its presence on Panganiban Reef.
Panganiban Reef is not only located near Recto Bank where the Philippine government has oil exploration projects, but is also close to Ayungin Shoal, an area being guarded by Navymen (no longer the Marines) stationed on the grounded PN ship BRP Sierra Madre.
Meanwhile, state media reported yesterday that China landed two more planes on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, despite international condem- nation of a landing at the same location days earlier. Vietnam also claims the reef.
Two civilian aircraft landed during “test flights,” the of- ficial Xinhua news agency said.
“This successful test flight proves that this airport is equipped with the capacity to ensure the safe operation of large civilian aircraft,” said Xinhua.