As much as 12 Chinese ships have been monitored in the West Philippine (South China) Sea as China continues to strengthen its presence in the area, military officials said Wednesday.

There have been times that 10 to 12 ships were monitored, though sometimes there are only three or four, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado said in a press briefing.

“The number changes from time to time, probably it depends on the level of activities that they are pursuing,” he said.

Major General Edgar Fallorina, Air Force chief of staff, said it was hard to determine how many activities the Chinese are conducting, but was clear that these have intensified.

“If they are just having their structures before, right now they are trying to improve those structures,” he said.

Last month, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said China was monitored to have been conducting reclamation activities, apparently to build a “base,” in Mabini (Johnson South) Reef.

Similar activities have also been monitored in Calderon (Cuarteron) and Gaven Reefs, according to the government.

“Right now they are doing some dredging so by that observation alone you’ll probably come up with your own conclusion what they intend to do. In short, they are trying to improve their presence,” Fallorina said.

Colonel Florante Falsis, deputy assistant chief of air staff for intelligence, said they are now monitoring other areas for Chinese construction activities.

Monitoring is now “concentrated” at Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) and Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, he said. (John Roson)

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