PH has ‘strong case’ vs China construction in South China Sea – Aguirre
MANILA — The Philippine government has started preparing a “fairly strong” case against China in protest of its construction activities in the disputed South China Sea, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II disclosed on Tuesday.
Aguirre made the statement after Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio urged President Duterte to bring a formal complaint against Beijing’s reported plan to build a radar station on Panatag Shoal, also known as Scarborough Shoal, located off the coast of Zambales province.
“The case which will be filed (against China) is fairly strong, I think,” Aguirre told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino.
“(As) a matter of fact, (we’re) strengthening the (Philippines’) relationship with the US,” he said, apparently taking into consideration Carpio’s unsolicited advice to the President to invoke the country’s 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States in dealing with the issue.
The justice secretary, however, did not explain what exactly the government would lodge against China, whose ownership claim over the entirety of the South China Sea has already been tossed out by a United Nations-backed arbitral court in favor of the Philippines.
Carpio was part of the legal team which secured the favorable ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year, which ruled that China’s so-called “nine-dash line” had “no legal basis.”
The magistrate had reminded Mr. Duterte of his constitutional duty to protect the country’s control over the West Philippine Sea after the Chief Executive stated that he could not prevent Beijing from putting up permanent structures on Panatag, a traditional fishing ground known to Filipino fishermen as Bajo de Masinloc.
The shoal is situated just 230 kilometers from the Zambales coast, well within the country’s 370-km exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Instead of making statements that seem to suggest that the Philippines was giving up its rights over a portion of the South China Sea, he said the President should file a strong protest against China’s incursion into the country’s known territories.
Carpio said the President could also order the Philippine Navy to conduct border patrol operations in the West Philippine Sea and seek military assistance from the US if Chinese ships attacked Philippine vessels.
He said the US and the Philippine might also carry out joint patrol in the contested waters to “demonstrate joint Philippine and US determination to prevent China from building on Scarborough Shoal.” SFM
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