Sunday, November 5, 2017

China’s ‘island maker’ alarms congressman

Published November 5, 2017, 10:00 PM

By Ellson A. Quismorio

An opposition lawmaker is alarmed by the news about China’s giant dredging vessel, which has been nicknamed “Asia’s most powerful island maker.”

“This newest addition to China’s maritime arsenal provides increased and faster capacity to dredge and reclaim islands,” said Magdalo Party-List Rep. Gary Alejano.

Alejano was referring to the recently launched 140-meter-long 28-meter-wide dredger, the Tian Kun Hao.

“The Tian Kun Hao is quite alarming in itself….It would make it easier for China to build artificial islands and reclaim more reefs. Take for instance what China did when it reclaimed its seven reefs in 2013 to 2016. Given the earlier aggressive reclamation activities of China, one cannot help but be alarmed on what this massive dredger could do,” he said.

The dredger, is as big as nine basketball courts, can dredge up to 6,000 cubic meters an hour and dig as deep as 35 meters. It can also dredge in one spot and refill in another without transporting landfill material elsewhere.

“Such development in China’s maritime technology, as well as the recently spotted extensive construction of facilities in the contested Paracel Islands, highly suggests its renewed determination to assert its interests in the South China Sea,” said Alejano, a former Marine captain.

“Even the cases of Chinese incursions and harassment in Pag-asa Island in the past months are indications of its increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea,” he added.

Alejano once again asked President Duterte to define his stance on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue.

“The Duterte administration must set and clarify the country’s strategic direction for the West Philippine Sea before it is too late. Silence and inaction to Chinese incursions in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in exchange of loans and trade gains will hurt the country’s national interests in the long run,” he said

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