China will set up a military garrison in a newly established city in on island in the West Philippine Sea that has been occupied by the Philippines for 34 years.
A new report on China’s government portal said China’s central military authority approved the deployment at Sansha City.
Sansha will be located in part of the Spratly Islands, which are disputed by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
“The garrison command will be a division-level under the (People’s Liberation Army’s) Hainan provincial sub-command, responsible for managing the city’s national defense mobilization, military reserves and carrying out military operations,” the report said.
It also cited sources in the PLA’s Guangzhou Military Command as saying the Central Military Commission (CMC) authorized it to form a garrison command in the city.
Sansha’s Garrison Command will be under the dual leadership of the Hainan provincial sub-command and the city’s civilian leaders, the report added.
China had started forming the legislative body of Sansha, officially beginning the formation of the government of the newly established city.
China said Sansha City is to administer over 200 islets, sandbanks and reefs in Xisha (islets and islands up north), Zhongsha (Paracel near Vietnam) and Nansha Islands (Spratlys).
But Kalayaan (Palawan) town on Wednesday asserted its authority over the area.
Kalayaan mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. said Filipinos settled in the islands since 1978, whereas China is forming the government of its Sansha City there only now.
“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 he said he hopes the Philippines and China can come up with an “agreement on cooperation and (harmonious) co-existence.”
Bito-onon said the 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 vessels bearing fishermen would stop by the area, they would only ask for water and then leave.
China to work with ASEAN
China’s latest action came amid its promise to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to safeguard peace in the West Philippine Sea.
ASEAN members Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei are among the claimants to the Spratlys.
The Philippines and China have also been engaged in a territorial dispute at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal since April.
Last Friday, China pledged to make joint efforts with the ASEAN to safeguard regional peace and stability after ASEAN issued a six-point statement on the West Philippine Sea.
ASEAN members in their statement reaffirmed their commitment to the “peaceful resolution of disputes” in the West Philippine Sea.
“The Chinese side is willing to work together with the ASEAN members to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) comprehensively and effectively,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.