Security officials verifying Chinese airship on Panganiban Reef

Malacañang on Monday deferred commenting on the reported sighting of a Chinese airship floating above the Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) in the West Philippine Sea.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he would rather wait for the country’s security officials to validate the report before making a statement.

“I will defer to the statement to be issued by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Teodoro Locsin Jr.),” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

“And that is again subject always to the National Security Adviser (Hermogenes Esperon), as well as the Department of National Defense Secretary (Delfin Lorenzana) for validation,” he added.

Panelo said security officials always release statements relative to matters concerning national security.

In a tweet dated Nov. 24, ImageSat International, which specializes in providing high-resolution satellite imagery and mapping, bared that China’s aerostat was sighted over the Philippine-claimed reef on November 18.

“For the first time, #China’s aerostat, probably for #military #intelligence-gathering purposes, seen by #ISI at #Mischief Reef,” ImageSat said in its tweet.

“The use of #aerostat allows China a continuous situational awareness in this resource-rich region. #IMINT #VISINT #Space #SouthChinaSea #SouthSea,” it added.

Panganiban Reef, which is being reclaimed by China, is located within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone or the West Philippine Sea.

In July 2016, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines’ arbitration case contesting China’s nine-dash line claims in the disputed sea.

The arbitral tribunal ruled that China does not have historic rights and that the nine-dash line has no legal basis.

China rejected the arbitral tribunal’s decision, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to temporarily shelve it to give way to peaceful and friendly dialogues. PNA.GOV.PH