MANILA - Beijing's man-made islands in the West Philippine Sea may have triggered some security concerns, but Manila will "thank" China for it someday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Wednesday.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer report earlier showed close-up images of almost-complete military facilities in the 7 artificial islands China has been building and improving. The build-up could be used to restrict free movement along the key trade route, the US had warned.
The construction, however, is on Philippine territory so this will eventually belong to Manila "when China's might has ceased", said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
"There will come a time when China's might has ceased, when we will have to thank them for the islands because it is only the Philippines that can legally build those artificial islands," Roque said in a Facebook video.
"Clearly, eventually, the artificial islands will be ours if we can get, ask China to leave the islands," he added.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration had nullified China's claim to the West Philippine Sea.
President Rodrigo Duterte has set aside the ruling as he courted Beijing in hopes of winning business and investment.
Roque earlier said China has not reclaimed more islands. “There is still no breach of the good faith obligation for as long as China has not embarked on new reclamation,” he said.
China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims in the South China Sea where $5 trillion in trade goods pass annually. The area is also believed to contain oil and gas reserves.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have agreed to start negotiations on a code of conduct on the South China Sea in March.
With a report from Reuters