Malacañang need no more wait to acquire technology to verify and protest China’s violation of the Philippines’ sovereignty in the Spratly archipelago.
Satellite imagery has shown the first confirmed landing by China of a military aircraft on Zamora Reef in the Spratlys, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (Amti) at the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington said on Thursday.
Amti published the pictures, taken on April 28, on its website showing a Shaanxi Y-8 military plane on Zamora Reef (internationally known as Subi Reef), one of seven Philippine-claimed features in the Spratlys that China has seized and transformed into artificial islands from which to project its military might in the South China Sea.
The other six Philippine reefs that China has taken over and developed into military outposts in the Spratlys are Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Calderon (Cuarteron), Burgos (Gaven), Mabini (Johnson South), Panganiban (Mischief) and McKennan (Hughes).
The Y-8 was designed as a military transport aircraft, but some variants are used for maritime patrol or signals intelligence, Amti said, warning that the landing on Zamora should be particularly concerning to the Philippines, which has 100 civilians and a small military garrison on Pag-asa (Thitu) Island just 22 kilometers away.
With the Zamora deployment, “military aircraft have now verifiably landed” on all three airstrips that China has built in the Spratlys, Amti said.
The first was a “naval patrol aircraft,” possibly a Y-8 or similar plane, which landed on Kagitingan Reef in April 2016 to evacuate three people who had fallen ill, it said.
Last month, the Inquirer published an aerial photo dated Jan. 6 showing two Xian X-7 military transport planes on Panganiban Reef.