China added mental health stations on the islands and reefs it occupied in the West Philippine Sea.
The Chinese PLA news website reported on April 17 that Jiang Chunlei, a psychology professor of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Naval Medical University, went to Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef to conduct mental health counseling for their troops on April 7.
The first batch of mental health service facilities was set up on Chinese bases in the Spratly Islands after the visit.
Reports said each station has an anger-venting room, a counseling room, and a psychological evaluation room. Professional psychologists and part-time counselors oversee the operations of the facility.
The report also showed the inauguration of a mental health service station on Mischief (Panganiban) Reef.
“Despite improved living conditions in recent years, the garrisons always faced challenges and trials both physically and mentally due to arduous tasks and long-term combat readiness,” the report said.
“Such mental service stations are set up to help the officers and soldiers disperse loneliness and boost morale,” it added.
China sets up mental health facilities for its soldiers in West Philippine Sea
Meanwhile, maritime expert Prof. Jay Batongbacal said China’s move to set up mental health stations indicates it was struggling to maintain a large-scale presence in an isolated space such as the artificial islands.
“Being stationed on the artificial islands is like being imprisoned. A glided cage is still a cage,” he told INQUIRER.net.
“I think this is just showing just how hard and costly it is for China to maintain those artificial islands,” Batongbacal added.
West Philippine Sea advocate and retired Senior Associate, Justice Antonio Carpio, said the Philippine government should also protest the setting up of mental health service stations.
“The arbitral tribunal declared Mischief Reef as part of the exclusive economic zone” of the Philippines, said Carpio.
“That means only the Philippines can put up an artificial island there, and the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights to exploit resources there,” he said.
Just last month, China built new two research stations on two of its large human-made islands in the West Philippine Sea — Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) and Zamora (Subi) Reef, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported on March 20 while the Philippines is busy fighting the pandemic.