MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday said it was "not okay" for China to continue its militarization of the West Philippine Sea, but at the same time asked what the Philippines could do about this.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said China and the Philippines are enjoying a "renaissance" of bilateral ties under President Rodrigo Duterte. Beijing has not made any new reclamation or seized another feature in the waterway, Roque said in a press briefing.
However, China continued construction on reclaimed land at Panganiban (Mischief) Reef during the Duterte administration, and deployed fast-attack missiles there.
Asked to address this, Roque said, "Hindi po sa okay, pero anong magagawa po natin?"
(It's not that it is okay, but what can we do.)
China, he said, occupied Mischief Reef in 1995, and started the construction of a military base there when Manila pursued an arbitration complaint against in incursion in Philippine waters.
"Ang usapan po, walang bagong reclamation, walang bagong teritoryo na aagawin sa atin, and they’re holding as far as that promise is concerned," he said.
(The deal is no new reclamation, no new territory will be seized from us.)
Pressed on whether or not the Philippines would let China continue its militarization, Roque asked a reporter, "Anong gusto mong gawin?"
"Gusto mo bang magpadala roon ng kasundaluhan para sabihing huwag na kayong magtayo ng extension ng inyong runway diyan? Gusto mo bang lusubin na iyan ng ating mga Philippine Navy para paalisin sila?" he said.
(Do you want to send soldiers there to tell them not to extend the runway there? Do you want the Philippine Navy to invade and drive them away?)
Roque noted that China soldiered on with its activities in the area, despite the Philippines' military exercises with US, its defense ally.
"Iyan ang punto ng Presidente, ‘ano ang gusto ninyong gawin ko, makipag-giyera sa Tsina?’ Hindi nga niya gagawin iyon," he said.
(That's the point of the President, 'what do you want me to do, wage war with China?' He will not do that.)
Beijing shuns the 2016 arbitral ruling of a United Nations-backed court that junked its "historical" claims to 90 percent of the South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea.
Duterte has refused to press China to obey the ruling, as he sought investments and loans from the economic giant.
Last week, he said the Philippine arbitral victory was a piece of "paper" that led to nothing.
Video courtesy of PTV
Mischief Reef, Panganiban Reef, outh China Sea, Duterte China, Duterte West Philippine Sea, sea row, maritime row, defense, diplomacy, Rodrigo Duterte