PH can't stop China from installing weapons for now: Yasay

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 16 2016 02:46 PM

PH to pursue enforcement of arbitration ruling in the future - Yasay

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay. Reuters

There is nothing the Philippines can do for now to stop China's militarization and construction of permanent facilities in parts of the West Philippine Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said Friday.

"We cannot stop China at this point in time and saying: 'Do not put that up.' We will continue to pursue peaceful means at which all of these can be prevented," he said.

"There is nothing that we can do about that now, whether or not it is being done for purposes of further militarizing these facilities that they have put up," he added.

China has reportedly installed weapons in the artificial islands it has built along the South China Sea and has defended its "right" to do so as a sovereign nation.

A satellite image shows what CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative says appears to be anti-aircraft guns and what are likely to be close-in weapons systems (CIWS) on the artificial island Subi Reef in the South China Sea in this image released on December 13, 2016. Courtesy CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe/Handout via Reuters

However, Yasay stressed that the matter has been decided by the arbitral tribunal and the enforcement of that ruling will be pursued by the Philippines at a future date.

"The issue about the militarization and the construction of permanent facilities by China, insofar as the disputed territory with the Philippines is concerned, which we consider as part of our Exclusive Economic Zone, has already been passed upon by the arbitral tribunal and [the] decision there is very clear," he said.

The Hague tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration favored the Philippines last July in its claims in the South China Sea. China however, rejected the decision.

The DFA chief added that the Philippines will continue with peaceful means to resolve the matter even as they prefer to let other countries who also have an interest in the matter take their own steps.

"There are other countries that will have special concerns insofar as these activities of China is concerned. Such as, insofar as the right to the freedom of navigation that they would like to protect and over flight operations, the United States is concerned about this, Japan is concerned about this, the European Union is concerned about this," he said.

Yasay said the Philippines will continue to have bilateral engagements with China and avoid actions to heighten tensions. He also pointed out that fishermen now have free access to Scarborough shoal.

"We will move forward in the future insofar as pursuing the enforcement of the decision of the arbitral tribune on the basis of that findings and conclusions," he said.
 
He noted the bilateral agreements with China and said the country will continue its engagements even if the matter on the weapons installation has been placed at the back burner.

"Let them take whatever action is necessary in the pursuit of their national interest is concerned and we will leave it at that, for the Philippines, we have our bilateral engagements with China," he said.
 
"We wanna make sure that there will be no further actions that will heighten the tensions between the two countries, particularly in the Scarborough Shoal."