MANILA - China's island-building and military activities in the South China Sea are a "clear and present danger" to the Philippines' national security, warned former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez.
In an interview on ANC's Early Edition on Thursday, Golez said China can, at any time, deploy combat aircraft that can easily reach the Philippines and Vietnam.
Golez said a lot of people are projecting that China can deploy a squadron of fighter jets in Mischief Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, and Subi Reef, which have 3-kilometer runways that can accommodate "all the aircraft and the inventory of China."
"The moment those runways are activated, the moment these fighter jets are deployed there...all these aircraft would have a radius that would cover the entire Philippines, Borneo, and the whole of Vietnam," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"That to me is a clear and present danger to our national security," he added.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), part of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, last month said new satellite images show missile shelters and radar and communications facilities being built on the artificial islands China built in the South China Sea.
Golez, who served under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, explained that the missile shelters are defensive mechanisms, so China must be defending something, such as offensive missiles and offensive weapons and aircraft.
With radar and communication facilities in the area, he added, China can also position their surveillance aircraft, 4 of which are already parked in Hainan, its smallest and southernmost province.
Golez said, while he respects President Rodrigo Duterte's foreign policy aimed at forging friendly ties with China, he believes the Philippines should formally protest China's military actions in the area.
"The least that we should do is to file a protest. We must protest on the record because a non-protest could be construed as acquiescence later if other players come into the picture...because we are the ones most affected, they’ll probably ask us, ‘How come you were quiet when all these things were happening?’," he said.
Although China has said it is bent on having a binding code of conduct with Southeast Asian nations, four of which are claimants in the disputed area, Golez said its latest actuations may render such code useless.
"It’s more of a play. They’re saying they are in favor of it, but as I said, it’s already water under bridge as far as the major aspect is concerned," he said.
"The code of conduct, even if it comes to fruition, would not be able to prevent the plans of China to fortify and entrench their position inside the South China Sea," he added.
China has denied militarizing the area, insisting that the artificial islands it has built are "primarily" for civilian use.
Beijing has also repeatedly said that it has sovereignty over virtually all the resource-rich waters, which are also claimed in part by several other countries, and deemed international waters by most of the world.
"Even if there is a certain amount of defense equipment or facilities, it is for maintaining the freedom of navigation," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said last March.
"Because without such freedom, or without stability in the South China Sea, the Chinese side would be among the first to bear the brunt of it," he added.
China "never has any intention to engage in militarisation in the South China Sea," he said.
Li said aircraft and ships that transit through the South China Sea were from trading partners with Beijing, "so one can easily imagine how many Chinese interests are at stake here." --with a report from Agence France-Presse