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China squeezing every ounce of chance from PH on Scarborough issue–expert

/ 07:25 PM February 02, 2018

China will hold off from building in the contested Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) until they have “extracted as much as they can” from the current administration, a maritime expert said Friday.

“There’s a political decision that if China feels right now it is winning, why provoke crisis with the Duterte administration?” Greg Poling, director of Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, told reporters Friday.

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Reports circulated last year that China was preparing to build an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough Shoal.

But President Rodrigo Duterte is holding on to a promise made by China last year that it will not build on Scarborough Shoal. Filipino fishermen were also allowed to fish in the shoal but with Chinese coast guard ships nearby.

“Last year, [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana said he expects the Chinese to eventually build something over Scarborough. I do, too. It’s a matter of when, not if. It’s a matter of what they built so maybe they won’t build another giant island….maybe it’s a small facility,” Poling said.

Duterte, who has established warmer ties with China when he became President in exchange of economic assistance from the regional superpower, put aside the Philippines’ arbitral win against China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

“You know, day by day the Chinese are allowed to strengthen their control to South China Sea and the Philippines does nothing in response. If they overplay their hand at Scarborough Shoal, Malacañang might be forced to respond,” Poling said.

“I think they will hold off and build in Scarborough until they feel like they have extracted as much as they can from the Duterte government,” he added.

While the Scarborough Shoal is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, it was declared as a common traditional fishing ground for neighboring countries in the international court ruling. /jpv

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TAGS: China, maritime issues, Panatag Shoal, Scarborough
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