By Mei Jingya, Sina English
China installed a dome-shaped radar on the roof of a four-story building on the Zhubi reef in South China Sea in May, Philippine media reported, and Manila was fully aware of it. 'Government told of China buildup 2 months ago', the Daily Inquirer website claimed in a July 17th article with the same title.
The Inquirer report, quoting Palawan defense sources, says the Aquino administration was notified two month ago of Chinese military construction on islands in the Spratly (China’s Nansha Islands), Subi Reef and Mischief Reef (known as Zhubi Reef and Meiji Reef in Chinese respectively). Meiji Reef is reportedly fully occupied by China and its construction on Zhubi Reef is still under way.
Colonel Neil Estrella, spokesperson for the Philippine’s West Command, said the military was aware of the Chinese activities and revealed that China has also “completed the construction of a helipad and the placement of buoys in a narrow channel to guide marine vessels into the reef’s inner lagoon”.
Eugenio Bito-onon, mayor of a Kalayan town, confirmed observations of visible Chinese structures on Zhubi Reef, saying the Chinese had only recently removed the scaffolding on the tall building that has a radar on top.
What is noteworthy is that Kalayan Island, one of the Nansha islands in the South China Sea, was illegally occupied by the Philippines and is still under its control.
“(Philippine) fishermen have been able to approach that island and they see what is going on there,” Bito-onon said, citing local fishermen’s accounts.
Radar could be used for weather forecasting as well as monitoring ships sailing in the region.
On May 20, China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) announced to start offering weather and marine environmental forecasts of Huangyan Island and its nearby islets. Starting June 9, Hainan TV channel daily broadcasts weather and marine forecasts of the region at 7 pm.
Wang Feng, director of SOA’s marine forecast and disaster reduction division, said in an interview with China’s Youth Daily that providing forecasts is a public service for Chinese fishermen and has no bearing on the ongoing standoff with Manila.