The Philippines will be grateful to China for the artificial islands the Red Dragon built in the Philippine territory if the Chinese would “leave,” according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr.
“Clearly, eventually, those artificial islands will be ours if we can ask China to leave the islands,” Roque said in an interview on February 7, posted on his Facebook page.
Speaking about legality, Roque said, “There will come a time when China’s might had ceased, when we will have to thank them for the islands because it is only the Philippines the can legally build on those artificial islands.”
During a press briefing on February 5, Roque defended the administration on the issue of China’s reclamation and militarization of its artificial islands.
“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 this did not stop China’s militarization.
Apart from territorial issues, China’s reclamation in the disputed areas also damaged about 300 acres of the Pearl of the Orient Seas’ coral reefs.
“China has pursued these activities unilaterally, disregarding peoples in the surrounding states who have depended on the sea for their livelihood for generations. The destruction of 300 acres of coral reef systems resulting from the reclamations is estimated to lead to economic losses to coastal states valued at US$100 million annually,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement back in April 2015.