Gov’t ‘assessing’ structures on reefs in South China Sea – Esperon
The Philippine government has been “assessing” the recent developments in the South China Sea, as show in photographs showing that Beijing has almost finished transforming seven reefs claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly Islands into fortresses.
“We are assessing all of them,” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. told reporters on Tuesday on the sidelines of the 116th anniversary celebration of the Bureau of Customs in Manila. “So what are the purpose of those structures? They could be for civilian use, but we should look to possibilities that they could be used against us. If they are for military use, then that is something that we should look into.”
On Monday, the Inquirer published a story with aerial photographs showing that the reefs had been transformed into artificial islands in the final stages of development as air and naval bases.
“We have had those photos several months back, right from the start,” Esperon said.
So what would be the government’s next move?
Filing a diplomatic complaint was one of the “array of options that we can take,” Esperon said.
“That’s part of the array of options that we can take. Kaya pinag-aaralan natin ng mabuti,” he added.
Esperon, who heads the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, said the government had been looking into an “array of courses of action” to take.
“Leave it us. You can just be assured that we are trying our best under the circumstances to protect and watch over what is ours whether by virtue of sovereign rights or by sovereignty,” he said.
He said the government could “deploy more of our troops” in the disputed sea.
But he added: “War must be the last option.”
“What do you want us to do? Go to war? What do you want us to do? We have been studying it,” he said. “We have done some actions. But are you asking us to go to war? There are actions that we are doing.”
Esperon said Manila’s improving ties with Beijing should not be strained with the South China Sea dispute.
“We can work out things. Keep calm,” he said. “The South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea, is not the sum total of our relationship with other countries This West Philippine Sea is not everything. But it is very important.”
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