Duterte: We can’t stop China build­ing on dis­puted shoal

New Straits Times - - World -

MANILA: Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte said yes­ter­day he could not stop China from build­ing on a dis­puted shoal near his coun­try’s west coast be­cause it was too pow­er­ful.

The mayor of China’s San­sha city had re­port­edly said his coun­try would set up an en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing sta­tion on Scar­bor­ough Shoal, which China seized from the Philip­pines in 2012.

“We can­not stop China from do­ing (th­ese) things.

“What do you want me to do? De­clare war against China? I can’t. We will lose all our mil­i­tary and po­lice­men tomorrow and we (will be) a de­stroyed na­tion,” he told a press con­fer­ence be­fore de­part­ing for Myan­mar.

Duterte said he would tell the Chi­nese: “Just keep it (the wa­ters) open and do not in­ter­fere with our coast guard.”

He also brushed aside con­cerns over Chi­nese sur­vey ships that had been seen near Ben­ham Rise — wa­ters east of the main Philip­pine is­land of Lu­zon that had been recog­nised by the United Na­tion as in­dis­putably Philip­pine ter­ri­tory.

Ear­lier this month, De­fence Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana said he was con­cerned that the ships had been seen at that lo­ca­tion, some­times for as long as a month.

But Duterte said: “So what if they stop there? They ad­mit it is within the ter­ri­tory of the Philip­pines. That does not sat­isfy you?”

He de­scribed the com­plaints against China as “nit-pick­ing”.

“We are now im­prov­ing the econ­omy be­cause of the help of China. Why will you be so shame­less just be­cause they are pass­ing by?”

Scar­bor­ough Shoal is 230km from Lu­zon. An­a­lysts warn that out­posts there would put Chi­nese jet fight­ers and mis­siles within strik­ing dis­tance of mil­i­tary bases in the Philip­pines.

The shoal also com­mands the northeast exit of the sea, so a Chi­nese mil­i­tary out­post there could stop other coun­tries’ navies from us­ing the wa­ters. AFP

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