News / Asia

Philippines Plays Catch-up in Developing Disputed Isle

Manila artist and historian Carlos Celdran holds up a hand-written sign as demonstrators outside the Chinese consulate in Manila protest China's reclamation activity at Johnson South Reef, locally known as Mabini Reef, in the South China Sea, June 12, 201
Manila artist and historian Carlos Celdran holds up a hand-written sign as demonstrators outside the Chinese consulate in Manila protest China's reclamation activity at Johnson South Reef, locally known as Mabini Reef, in the South China Sea, June 12, 201
Simone Orendain
The Philippines' top diplomat this week called for a moratorium on building activities by China that he says “escalate tension” on hotly-contested features in the South China Sea.  At the same time, Philippine officials and concerned citizens are trying to keep the country’s only civilian-inhabited island in the disputed Spratly Islands habitable for its tiny population.

About 150 people chanted, “Get out China!” at a recent rally in Manila’s business district protesting China’s reclamation activity at several reefs in the Spratly Islands.

Carlos Celdran, a Manila artist and historian who was among them, says the ongoing dispute between China and the Philippines is all about tapping the resources in the South China Sea.  Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the sea, which has abundant fishing, potentially huge hydrocarbon reserves and is a heavily travelled trade route.

Celdran says China doing reclamation work, drilling in contested waters and taking other actions to assert its claims is “so old-fashioned.”

But he also says Filipinos should “get involved [in] the issue.”

“We completely dropped the ball when it came to developing Pagasa shoal and the Kalayaan Islands," Celdran said. " It’s completely unsustainable.  It’s an empty island with no water, no infrastructure, no electricity.  So the threat of people leaving that island and leaving it empty for [China] to come in is really high.”
 
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Celdran refers to the Spratlys by their local name, the Kalayaan Group of Islands.  The Philippines claims nine islands, reefs and shoals in the Spratlys, which has hundreds of formations.  Among them, the 37-hectare Pagasa Island, internationally known as Thitu,  has up to 150 mostly civilian residents at any given time.

A few months ago, Celdran and a small group of friends created a fledgling project to support Thitu.  Their goal is to bolster its infrastructure and education system, which Celdran says is “totally doable.”  They plan to send water filtration and solar power systems.  So far, they have delivered elementary schoolbooks to the 30 children attending the one-room school.

Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon had the school built two years ago.  He says before that children attended school in Palawan, an island province some 500 kilometers to the east.

Bito-onon says Thitu municipality’s residents are mostly local government workers and fisherfolk.  He says it is at the lowest end of the country’s socio-economic structure.  Its budget for social services and infrastructure is $223,000.00, a slight increase over last year.  

Bito-onon says this is barely enough to offer basic services, such as healthcare.  There is no doctor on the island, whose airport runway is unusable.

“But if we have facilities, relevant facilities like a good airport, a civilianized airport and there are regular flights and then we have a nice harbor and good sea craft, everything will just go normal.  No problem,” Bito-onon said.
 
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua ChunyingForeign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying
x
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying
On Monday China’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the Philippines’ call for stopping construction activities in the South China Sea islands was “totally unreasonable.”  She said China, which says it has “indisputable sovereignty” over about 90 percent of the South China Sea, had a right to do what it wanted on its claimed territory.  Hua says the Philippines has illegally occupied some of the disputed islands and is carrying out construction work.  

But Ian Storey, a senior fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies says the Philippines is simply “playing catch-up” to its neighbors.  Some of them have well-developed infrastructure on their claimed islands.

“It’s one thing to repair a runway or to add… what the Philippines is doing, maybe adding a school, that kind of thing.  It’s quite another to do reclamation work,” Storey said.

Storey points out under a non-binding agreement between the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China there is nothing that prohibits upgrading of existing features.  However, he says reclamation stretches the limits and “violates the spirit” of the declaration.

Officials suspect China’s reclamation work is laying the groundwork for military infrastructure.  

Another analyst, Sam Bateman with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, says how the reclamation work will be used to justify maritime claims in the future could stir tensions further.  

He says the Philippines non-military goals at Thitu help strengthen its claims.

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ABK from: USA
June 19, 2014 3:03 AM
Sounds like it could be made a great vacation getaway area once it is developed.


by: David Bishop from: California
June 18, 2014 8:19 AM
It is good to see the Philippines developing this small island. I imagine it may turn into a good diving location. I look forward to the progress.


by: Ivansk from: USA
June 18, 2014 7:47 AM
China and it's 9 dash LIE. We have done the homework and China has clear and absolute NO ownership of the Islands. Ancient maps and documents proves that for one China was not allowed to venture out of Hainan, Two Ancient maps clearly shows that Hainan is it and no other Island, Ancient Portugese, Spanish and Arab maps show the Island of the Philippines shows western Islands and was even given a name by ancient Filipino mariners. CHINAS CLAIM IS ALL A LIE PEEPS. THEY EVEN DON'T KNOW HOW TO SPELL PROPERLY LIKE THEIR CURRENT CLAIM THEY ADDED THE LETTER "N" FOR LINE BUT FOR ALL THIS TIME THE CORRECT SPELLING IS 9 DASH LIE.
9 DASH LIE
REMEMBER.
9 DASH LIE.


by: Bhalanee from: USA
June 18, 2014 4:00 AM
So what?
please go back to read your maps n documents such that you do not disgrace by claiming what us not yours except listening to your super-punk boss Obama who want to pressure china to give up its territory.

In Response

by: gus from: usa
June 19, 2014 2:03 AM
bhalanee......Spratley islands and scarborough schoal is 900 miles away from china and both area is within 120 miles from the philippines ......lets forget about history lets just follow the united nation signed agreement for the economic zone..... with in the 200 miles from the shore of each country...... hmmmmm i wish china understand the meaning of the sign United Nation agreement.

In Response

by: Yazu
June 18, 2014 11:50 PM
Oh, so China demand us to read our own historical documents while China here is trying to avoid the arbitration case.


by: lulu32 from: USA
June 18, 2014 3:30 AM
oh! c'mon it take so long to act.. if the place no water why not the government send them a tanker loaded with water... if there is no electricity why not send them a wind turbine to produce electricity or solar energy kits....the problem solve.... please hurry before the Chinese take over the kalayaan....

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid