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China to deploy new military garrison in West Philippine Sea

July 22, 2012 8:06am
The People’s Liberation Army, China’s central military authority, has approved the  deployment of a military garrison in the newly declared Sansha City in the sparsely populated West Philippine Sea, said a report posted on China’s Ministry of National Defense website.

China's announcement is just the latest in a series of recent actions that have expanded its physical presence in the vast disputed waters and defied condemnation around the region.
 
The report said that the military garrison will be “responsible for managing the city’s national defense mobilization, military reserves and military operations.”
 
The Chinese defense ministry likewise said that military troops to be sent to the newly established garrison will be under the dual leadership of Hainan province’s military sub-command and Sansha City’s civilian leaders.

China had envisioned Sansha City as administering the West Philippine Sea including the Spratly Islands.
 
The announcement came despite a diplomatic protest lodged by the Philippines against China over the establishment of Sansha City. 
 
The Philippine protest said that “the extent of the jurisdiction of the city violates Philippine territorial sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc and infringes on Philippine sovereign rights over the waters and continental shelf of the West Philippine Sea.”
 
Aside from the Spratly Islands, Sansha City—which was established by the Chinese Cabinet last June 21—also claims political sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and Macclesfield Bank.
 
Portions of these territories are also being claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.
 
Kalayaan
 
On Wednesday, Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. said Filipinos have been settled in the islands since 1978, whereas China is forming the government of its Sansha City there only now. Kalayaan town, by Chinese reckoning, falls under Sansha's jurisdiction.
 
"Yung ating local government matagal na, 34 years na. Ako ay Filipino citizen, ang Kalayaan ay part ng Pilipinas, so sa Pilipinas tayo nagre-report," Bito-onon said in an interview on dzBB radio.
 
He said he is supposed to administer some 95 islands, shoals, reefs and atolls but some areas there have already been occupied by Vietnam, China and Malaysia.
 
Of the 95 islands, he said only 41 are occupied.
 
But Bito-onon said he hopes the Philippines and China can come to an "agreement on cooperation and co-existence."
 
He said that Kalayaan town, a fifth-class municipality, has only one village – Barangay Pag-asa. It has a population of "250-plus," he added.
 
"(We are) the smallest town in the Philippines," he said.
 
But he also admitted there is virtually no government office there, although the residents in the town are all Filipinos. He said they are developing fisheries and tourism.
 
He also said that while some Chinese fishing vessels would stop by the area, they would only ask for water and then leave.
 
Chinese infrastructure
 
A separate Reuters report meanwhile said that China is also planning to build structures such as buoy tenders, supply bases, light stations and radio stations in Sansha City.
 
"We are also planning to cruise regularly in Sansha in the future and set up a daily cruising mechanism when conditions are ready in order to safeguard China's sovereignty and maritime interests," Zhang Wei, head of the ship supervision division of China’s Hainan Maritime Safety Administration, said in the report.
 
Last week, China also began setting up an organizing committee for the legislative body of Sansha, the beginnings of the city’s government.
 
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei, however, had earlier said that China will cooperate in the “peaceful resolution of disputes” in the West Philippine Sea.
 
“The Chinese side is willing to work together with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea comprehensively and effectively,” the official said in a report posted on the Chinese government’s official web portal. — DVM/HS, GMA News
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