China military presence proof Beijing ‘in possession, in control’ of South China Sea
MANILA, Philippines — The presence of the Chinese military in the disputed South China Sea makes Beijing “in possession” and “in control” of the resource-rich and strategic waterway.
This was Malacañang’s explanation to President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement in his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona) that China is “in possession” of the South China Sea, which earned a decisive reproach from Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
For Carpio, it was wrong for Duterte to say that China is “in possession” of the South China Sea because the Asian superpower occupies only seven artificial islands, which comprises less than 10 percent of the entire South China Sea based on his estimates.
Duterte’s chief legal counsel and spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, refuted the Supreme Court magistrate’s statement.
In a Palace briefing Tuesday, Panelo said: “But when you are in possession, [does that mean] you possess only one portion? When you have military installation [there], in other words, you are showing that you can guard the whole area; that means they are in possession.”
“You don’t have to be there physically. Like you have 10, 000 hectares, do you need to be all over the 10,000 hectares to call it your own?” he added.
Panelo then cited that “(t)here is such (a) thing as legal possession.”
“As far as they are concerned, it is theirs. They are in possession because they can enforce it,” he added.
The Philippines and China had been locked in a long-standing maritime dispute over portions of the South China Sea.
In July 2016, the Philippines sealed a historic win against China before the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague, which invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line that covers almost the entire South China Sea. But China has been ignoring the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling.
“Isn’t it? If they are not in control, then we don’t have a problem, we will not be arguing. Other countries would not be in conflict for claiming their own territorial rights,” Panelo said. /kga
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