Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte believes that his government cannot stop China from establishing a radar station in Panatag or Scarborough Shoal that has been declared a traditional common fishing ground by an United Nations arbitral tribunal, which also invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash claim over the whole of the South China Sea.
The announcement of the Manila executive was came amid the uprising new battle of the Philippines and China over Benham Rise, a shelf territory that can be seen in the East coast of the country.
It is also comes out following the Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio statement that the Chinese government plan has pushed the panic button on China’s plan while a militant fisher group urged the President to vigorously assert the country’s sovereign rights over Panatag Shoal and Benham Rise.
“We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Even the Americans were not able to stop them,” Duterte said in a press conference at the Davao International Airport before leaving for a two-day official visit to Myanmar yesterday afternoon.
“So what do you want me to do? Declare war against China?” the leader asked. “I can but we’ll lose all our military and policemen tomorrow, and we are a destroyed nation. And we cannot assert even a single sentence of any provision that we signed.”
Meanwhile, Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said it is still on the process of verifying of the report by Chinese newspaper Hainan Daily that quoted Sansha Communist Party secretary Xiao Jie as saying that preparations are underway to build an environmental monitoring station at Panatag Shoal.
The fiery leader also said that his government would ensure freedom of navigation not just in Panatag that is part of the West Philippine Sea, but also in Benham Rise.
Known by locals as Panatag Shoal or Scarborough, located some 230 kilometers off Zambales, was a common fishing ground of Filipino, Chinese and even Vietnamese fishermen until it was occupied by the Chinese Navy after a standoff with the Philippine Navy in 2012.
Benham Rise is a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau located near Aurora. It is larger than Luzon, the Philippines’ biggest island, and is considered part of the country’s continental shelf.
He also said that his government has agreed to allow China to conduct surveying or research mission in the area. But the DFA and the Department of National Defense said they were not aware of the agreement.
It can be remembered that Duterte insisted last week that Benham Rise is owned by the Philippines following a report that Chinese vessels were spotted manning the plateau.
In the same news conference, Duterte said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping during his Beijing visit last year that “I will not invoke the arbitral ruling now” but “there will be a time in my term when I will bring the issue back on the table on the foursquare of the arbitral ruling and it will come.”
“When? When they shall start to tinker with entitlements. Tubig pa lang ngayon eh,” Duterte said, noting it’s presently all just water.
But he said Chinese ships are welcome to pass or “come and dock” like those from Russia “and let me see your armaments there.”
Duterte said he also asked the Chinese “not to do anything” to the Philippine Coast Guard as it patrols the country’s maritime waters.
“(Under the doctrine of) right of passage, anybody can. The Americans go there everyday. Why will I discriminate China? We are not at war against China. I am not at war against America,” he said.
“And yet American ships come and go, why should I not allow the Russians, you are also my friend. China is also our friend. And we are now improving on our economy because of the help of China, bakit ka naman mag-walanghiya? Para magdaan lang,” Duterte said, stressing it wasn’t right to deny anyone the courtesy of passage.
Duterte, overwhelmed by Beijing’s offer of $10 billion in investment package and assistance, said he is satisfied so far that China recognizes the Philippines’ claim over the area, apparently referring to Benham Rise.
“So what if it stops there? They admit that it is within the territory of the Philippines. That does not satisfy you? Ano gusto mo paluhurin mo yung tao (You want to make them kneel)?” he said, before accusing critics of “nitpicking” just to raise questions about his presidency.
In the same press briefing, Duterte questioned a critic for raising a howl over his move to renew bilateral ties with Beijing, and not invoking the arbitration ruling in the disputed areas.
In a statement, Justice Carpio, warned that the installation of an environmental monitoring station at the shoal is all that China needs to be able to set up its air defense zone in the South China Sea.
“A radar station on Scarborough Shoal will immediately complete China’s radar coverage of the entire South China Sea. China can then impose an ADIZ or air defense identification zone,” Carpio pointed out.
“China will use its HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles to enforce the ADIZ. These missiles are now installed on Woody Island in the Paracels,” the magistrate bared.
HQ-9 is China’s medium- to long-range active radar homing surface-to-air missile system similar to the Russian S-300 and American Patriot.
“The Chinese will of course also use these same military installations to enforce the (nine)-dash lines as China’s national boundaries in the South China Sea. That means China will grab 80 percent of Philippine exclusive economic zone and 100 percent of Philippine extended continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea,” he further warned.
In 2009, when Philippines brought the case to UN arbitral to own Benham Rise and only in 2012 when the latter granted the rights to Manila.