MANILA– "Wishful thinking."
This was how Senator Grace Poe described Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque's remarks that the Philippines would someday thank China for its artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.
"...Secretary Roque’s wishful thinking is like saying that a homeowner may soon be thankful to a gang of fully armed men who unlawfully intruded [into] his place for some time and made it their safehouse, which in effect prevented other criminals from ransacking the same," Poe said in a statement Thursday.
"And this comes with false hopes that the gang members will decide to give the house back, if they have not yet transferred the title under their name," she added.
Roque on Wednesday said time would come when the Philippines would thank China for the construction of the artificial islands because these would eventually belong to the Philippines.
"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.
But Poe criticized Roque, saying: "The West Philippine Sea will freeze over first before China will even begin toying with the idea of giving us back those islands."
The West Philippine Sea covers the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the disputed South China Sea.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer report earlier showed images indicating that China has nearly completed military facilities on seven artificial islands it has been fortifying in the waters.
The build-up could be used to restrict free movement along the key trade route, the United States had warned.
China has ramped up militarization of its artificial islands in the South China Sea, ignoring an international tribunal's 2016 ruling favoring the Philippines' plea to halt its incursions in the waters.
The ruling invalidated China's claim to nearly all of the contested waters.