Signs of Chinese land reclamation in Sabina (Escoda) Shoal, South China Sea

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has increased surveillance at Sabina (Escoda) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, citing early signs of Chinese land reclamation intended for an artificial island. Reports indicate that since April 16, nearly 50 Chinese vessels have been spotted at the shoal, situated just 75 nautical miles (140 km) from Palawan, Philippines. These vessels are part of an operation dumping dead corals to build up the shoal, potentially transforming it into a military base that could block Philippine access to the Spratly Islands.

Chinese research vessel near Sabina (Escoda) Shoal. Source: Philippine Coast Guard. @Joseph_Morong

This activity occurs within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a fact underscored by a 2016 ruling from The Hague which recognized the shoal as Philippine territory and invalidated China’s expansive “Nine-Dash Line” claim over the South China Sea. In response, the PCG has stationed the BRP Teresa Magbanua in the area to monitor and deter further illegal reclamation efforts, with a PCG spokesman emphasizing the country’s readiness to protect its sovereign rights. The continuous presence of Chinese military and coast guard vessels raises concerns over potential extensive reclamation that could result in significant ecological and geopolitical consequences for the Philippines.

Philippine Coast Guard personnel measuring dead coral presumably dropped by Chinese vessels. Source: @Joseph_Morong