Security officials validating reported Chinese airship in Mischief Reef — Palace


Security officials validating reported Chinese airship in Mischief Reef — Palace

Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – December 2, 2019 – 2:44pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has deferred to comment on the reported sighting of a Chinese airship above Mischief or Panganiban Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said security officials have yet to verify the report.

“I will defer to the statement issued by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. That is again subject always to the National Security Adviser as well as the Department of National Defense secretary for validation,” Panelo told reporters Monday.

Panelo noted that Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. always issues a statement after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana comes up with a statement concerning national security.

Israeli satellite company ImageSat International earlier tweeted a photo of a Chinese aerostat hovering above Mischief Reef, one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands.

“For the first time, #China’s aerostat, probably for #military #intelligence-gathering purposes, seen by #ISI at #Mischief Reef,” ISI tweeted November 24.

The satellite image was taken November 19, becoming the first indication of an operational aerostat on the reef.

The airship would allow China to conduct continuous situational awareness in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

Mischief Reef is well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and is part of the country’s continental shelf.

In July 2016, a United Nations-backed tribunal ruled that China violated the Philippines exercise of sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea. China, however, refuses to acknowledge the landmark ruling.