PHL won’t give up Panatag claim as DFA checks on China’s alleged plan to build on disputed shoal

MANILA-- MalacaAang on Tuesday said that the "Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is in the process of verifying alleged announcements of proposals to build structures in the West Philippine Sea" even as it stressed anew that the Philippines is not giving up its claim of sovereignty over Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal).

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the DFA is checking on the alleged announcements "since these statements do not reflect the official position of the PROC (People's Republic of China)"

Last week, Xiao Jie, the mayor of Sansha City, said China planned to begin preparatory work this year to build environmental monitoring stations on a number of islands, including Scarborough Shoal.

Sansha City is the name China has given to an administrative base for the South China Sea islands and reefs it controls.

Abella also stressed that contrary to what media report have been alluding, President Rodrigo Duterte does not intend to give up the country's sovereign rights over Panatag Shoal.

"Furthermore, PRRD has repeatedly asserted that PHL is not giving up its claims and our entitlements over the area. He has said time and again that he will defend and protect the interests of the Filipino people, and will take necessary action at a time most fitting and advantageous to us," Abella said.

The Palace official made the clarification after media reported President Duterte as saying that the Philippines was incapable of stopping China from its reported plan to build structures in Panatag.

"We cannot stop China from doing this thing. Di nga na-para ng Amerikano [Even Americans could not stop it]," Duterte said during a press briefing prior to his departure to Myanmar Sunday.

The President has been repeatedly asked to aggressively assert Philippine sovereignty over Panatag Shoal ever since the UN Arbitral Tribunal ruling last July, 2016.

"So what do you want me to do? What do you want? Declare war against China? I can, but we'll all lose our military and policemen tomorrow," the President said.

He said that he does not want war with China since China is a friend -- same as with the US and Russia.

"China is also our friend, and now we are now improving on the economy because of the help of China. Bakit ka naman mag walanghiya para magdaan lang," Duterte said.

But Duterte also stressed in the same press briefing that although he will not raise the UN arbitral ruling for now, he will not hesitate to bring it back to the table when the time comes.

"I will not invoke the arbitral ruling now. But there will be a time in my term when I will bring the issue back on the table on the four square of the arbitral ruling and it will come," he said.

"When? When they shall start to tinker with the entitlements. Tubig pa lang ngayon eh," Duterte said.

The President has reiterated this upon his arrival at Myanmar, where he said he will not hesitate to bring it up with China if it attempts to take resources from Philippine territory.

"Kung ang China .. Magkuha sila ng oil or uranium or whatever is inside the bowels of the sea, kakalabitin ko siya, ako ang may-ari niyan. You claim it by historical right, by judgement I won and it's mine," Duterte said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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