‘Chinese structures in WPS not a cause for concern’

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    CHINESE military structures in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) should not be a cause for concern because all facilities will end up in the Philippines’ hands once the country’s arbitral victory is enforced, Rep. Eric Yap (ATC-CIS party-list group) said yesterday.

    Yap, chair of the House committee on appropriations, told the plenary while defending the Office of the President’s P8.2-billion proposed national budget for 2021: “Huwag tayong matakot kung magtayo sila ng structure dahil bandang huli, kapag na-enforce natin ang ating karapatan, dumating ang day of reckoning, ay yung mga structure na yun ay mapupunta sa atin yun (Let’s not be worried that they built structures there because in the end, when our right to the area is enforced and the day of reckoning comes, all their structures will go to us).”

    China has consistently said it is not recognizing the July 2026 ruling of the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration which invalidated China’s sweeping claim in the South China Sea, to include the West Philippine Sea, under its so-called nine dash line theory. It has proceeded to reclaim and construct seven artificial islands in the area, three of which are inside Manila’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

    Also claiming parts of the South China Sea are Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

    President Duterte has set aside the ruling in a bid to court Chinese loans and investments for his “Build Build Build” infrastructure projects but last week, during the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, he affirmed the country’s arbitral victory over China and said it is now a part of international law.

    Early last month, the UK, France and Germany sent a note verbale to the UN expressing its support to the 2016 arbitral ruling. In July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected nearly all of Beijing’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

    Yap said a simple territorial dispute is ultimately decided by the courts and not the military because the rule of law should always reign supreme.

    “Nagtayo sila ng structure doon sa ating lupa kung saan tayo may claim. Definitely, kapag tayo ay nanalo sa Korte, yung kanilang itinayo ay mapupunta sa atin dahil atin ang lupa (they built structures on lands where we have claims. Definitely, if we win the cases in court, the facilities they put up will go to us because we own the lands),” Yap said.

    Yap said he government is exhausting all diplomatic means and is not surrendering its claim over the China-occupied territories in the WPS “because we’ll not achieve anything by going to war.”

    He said even President Duterte has made it clear that the country will not surrender its claim over the territories and that the President is obviously maintaining good diplomatic relationships with China and other neighboring countries so that they could prioritize the Philippines if a vaccine against COVID-19 is invented.

    “Mayroon tayong arbitral ruling na sinasabi naman ng Presidente na pagkakataon lang at oras ang inaantay para ipaglaban natin ito. Ngayon, kung hindi natin kaya pa ipaglaban, tayo ay makipag-usap kung saan tayo ay magkakaroon ng win-win situation (We have an arbitral ruling victory and the President has said it’s a just a matter of time before he raises it. Now if we still aren’t prepared to fight for it, let’s talk to them so we could find a win-win situation),” Yap said.