A report by Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) last year invalidated the Palace’s claim that China’s militarization of its man-made islands along areas in the Philippine territory was done during the past administration.
Malacañang, through Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., defended the administration during a press briefing yesterday.
“As I said this militarization, if you can call it militarization, did not happen during the Duterte administration alone. It’s been long militarized and the question is, ‘what can we do?’ What did the past administration do and what can we do?” Roque said.
Contrary to his statement, AMTI’s report in December 2017 states the developments started in early 2017.
“These facilities account for about 72 acres, or 290,000 square meters, of new real estate at Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs in the Spratlys, and North, Tree, and Triton Islands in the Paracels,” it read.
The report further read that the Fiery Cross Reef was the most constructed, covering 27 acres or about 110,000 square meters.
These militarization developments included air and naval bses, radar and sensor arrays, underground storage areas, administrative buildings, hardened shelters for missile platforms, and communication facilities.
During the press briefing, Roque insisted that China has not built new artificial islands when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016.
“So, what do you want us to say? All that we could do is to extract a promise from China not to reclaim any new artificial islands. But what you featured in your newspaper today, are old reclaimed islands that were there even before the Duterte administration came to office,” he further said.
“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything about these artificial islands, what [do] they want us to do? We cannot declare war. Not only is it illegal, but it is also… because it’s impossible for us to declare war at this point,” Roque added.
The Aquino administration filed a case in 2013 to oppose China’s claim in the South China Sea, but did not stop China’s militarization.
“Right now, the posture of the President is maintain close ties so they wouldn’t have any reason to use those arms in those islands,” Roque said.
In December last year, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that they are aware of China’s movements, opposed to Roque’s claim of not knowing.
The spokesman told the media in a text message on December 25, “We don’t know where these works are. We continue to rely on China’s good faith.”
While Lorenzana told PhilStar that they are aware of China’s activities and that the government has a “West Philippine Sea Task Force” in-charged of monitoring the development in the disputed waters.
“Of course! We have known where they reclaimed and what improvements they have been doing,” Lorenzana said in the same interview.
“The latest report was that the Chinese continue to improve their reclaimed islands – two are within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and one in the Kalayaan Island Group,” he added.
Lorenzana also said that the government will protest the militarization in a diplomatic way.