MANILA – The Duterte administration's position on its relationship with China is a "serious blow" to the Philippines as it gives Beijing an opening to complete its plans in the West Philippine Sea, an analyst said Tuesday.
"We would be in a more precarious position in the West Philippine Sea if that happens," said Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines' (UP) Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, on ANC's "Beyond Politics."
This is a danger to Philippine sovereignty as well, he said, because if China is able to "essentially create bases", they can eventually control the disputed area.
"Given their overwhelming capacity, if we don't have any kind of back up or support, then we and the rest of region will have no choice but always follow China's lead whatever happens in the future," he said.
The natural resources in areas such as Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef are also at stake, as these can be depleted in a short time, particularly if there are no agreements on how parties can manage activities there.
Thus, the Philippines should be vigilant in monitoring sea areas which are subjects of disputes, said Batongbacal.
"When it comes to the sea, it's more important that you have clear, agreed-upon rules on how to conduct yourself, especially if they conduct wrong activities."
During his recent trip to Beijing, President Rodrigo Duterte said that he is "separating from the United States", and noted that the Philippines will be more reliant on China than the US in future.
On Sunday, Duterte said that the Philippines "will not insist" for now on forwarding the country's claims over areas in the West Philippine Sea, despite a favorable ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.
Meanwhile, the Hague ruling has no effect on the country’s unresolved claim on Sabah, as they are different, Batongbacal clarified.
The country’s claim on Scarborough Shoal does not involve continuing presence in the area, while the Sabah issue involves land and occupation of people.
"It depends on your capability to access the area, and regulate those activities far from any land or shore," he said, as territorial disputes involve a group of people and a government.