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China denies Philippine report of 'artificial island' in disputed waters

MANILA/BEIJING — The Philippines said on Monday (May 13) that it would keep a closer guard on reefs, shoals and islets in its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, as China denied accusations of trying to build an artificial island in the disputed waters.

The Philippine Coast Guard said on Saturday it had deployed a ship to Sabina Shoal on the Spratly archipelago, where it accused China of building an artificial island, having documented what it said were piles of dead and crushed coral on the sandbars.

Jonathan Malaya, spokesperson of the National Security Council (NSC), said NSC chief Eduardo Ano had ordered a tighter guard at locations within Manila's 200-nautical mile economic zone, as a long-standing diplomatic row with Beijing intensifies.

"No one will guard (these locations) except us. It is our responsibility under international law to guard (them) and ensure that the environment there would not be damaged and that there won't be reclamation activities," Malaya told a regular television programme.

China claims almost all the South China Sea, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, and has carried out extensive land reclamation on some islands, building military facilities, causing concern in Washington and the region.

China's foreign ministry on Monday dismissed Manila's latest accusation as "groundless and pure rumour".

"Recently, the Philippine side has repeatedly spread rumours, deliberately smeared China and attempted to mislead the international community, which is futile," spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing.

He urged Manila to "return to the right track of properly settling maritime disputes through negotiation and consultation".