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From PH Rise, Duterte urged to proceed to Panatag, WPS

/ 07:04 AM May 12, 2018

A maritime law expert is urging President Duterte not to make next week’s visit to the Philippine Rise a “sideshow with colorful but empty utterances of protecting sovereignty and sovereign rights.”

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, also said the President should extend his trip by proceeding to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to show his “grit.”

“He should show some grit and at least try to show that he is not leading the country into vassalage under China, in the same way that the military, through the current Balikatan Exercises, is thumbing its nose at China’s creeping assertions by conducting amphibious landing exercises,” Batongbacal said.

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‘Wave the flag’

He suggested that, after visiting Philippine Rise, Mr. Duterte board a Navy C-90 reconnaissance aircraft in Casiguran, Aurora, and proceed to Kalayaan (Spratly) Islands or Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal “escorted by FA-50s” fighter-trainer jets of the Air Force.

“That is how he should wave the flag, from the Pacific Ocean to the West Philippine Sea,” said Batongbacal, who made the remarks on his Facebook page on Thursday.

He deplored what he termed as Malacañang’s “convoluted positioning and statements” over China’s continued buildup on artificial islands within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.

Missiles on PH reefs

China last week deployed antiship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on three reefs being claimed by the Philippines.

On Friday, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative reported that a Shaanxi Y-8 aircraft landed on Zamora Reef in the Spratlys, which is only 22 km from Pag-asa Island.

Mr. Duterte is scheduled to send off 50 scientists who will conduct a scientific survey of Philippine Rise on Tuesday.

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Batongbacal said the reported deployment of missiles “is a significant escalation in the situation between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea,” despite Malacañang’s attempts to downplay the development.—JULIE M. AURELIO

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TAGS: Balikatan, Batongbacal, Duterte, Maritime
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