China ties ques­tioned

Judge: Duterte must be wary of China’s am­bi­tions and re­think de­ci­sion

The Star Malaysia - - World -

A supreme court judge has urged Manila to re­think its ties with Bei­jing, say­ing that it should be wary of the am­bi­tions of its more pow­er­ful neigh­bour.

MANILA: The Philip­pines should re­think re­la­tions with China fol­low­ing re­ports Bei­jing was plan­ning to build a radar sta­tion on Scar­bor­ough Shoal off the coast of Zam­bales, said its Supreme Court Associate Jus­tice An­to­nio Carpio.

Carpio said China’s move could es­ca­late mil­i­tari­sa­tion in the dis­puted South China Sea to back its ex­ces­sive mar­itime claims in the re­gion.

The planned en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing sta­tion on Panatag Shoal may just be an ini­tial step in a creep­ing oc­cu­pa­tion, as seen in pre­vi­ous Chi­nese in­cur­sions at Kag­itin­gan (Fiery Cross) Reef, he said.

Even­tu­ally, China may de­clare an air de­fence iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone (Adiz), through which Bei­jing may im­pose re­stric­tions on flights, in­clud­ing the in­ter­cep­tion of for­eign air­craft, Carpio said.

These de­vel­op­ments call for a na­tional de­bate, and con­sen­sus, on how the na­tion should pro­ceed with its bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with China, said Carpio, who has been a lead­ing voice urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to as­sert its sovereignty over the West Philip­pine Sea, its ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone (EEZ) within the South China Sea.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte has been care­ful not to an­tag­o­nise China, and has made ef­forts to im­prove bi­lat­eral re­la­tions dam- pened by the ter­ri­to­rial wran­gling.

In Oc­to­ber, Duterte said he as­serted to Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, the Philip­pines own­er­ship of Panatag Shoal, lo­cated just 230km off the Zam­bales coast and is well within the EEZ.

While China also re­it­er­ated its own­er­ship of the shoal, it sub­se­quently al­lowed Filipino fish­er­men to re­turn to their fish­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the tra­di­tional fish­ing grounds.

The shoal has been un­der China’s con­trol since a stand­off be­tween its ships and Filipino ves­sels in 2012, but a United Na­tions-backed ar­bi­tral tri­bunal ruled in favour of the Philip­pines last year.

Bei­jing has re­jected the rul­ing, but has ap­peared to soften fol­low­ing Dutertes peace over­tures.

Re­ports of Chi­nas lat­est plan to build new struc­tures in the area came shortly af­ter the coun­try’s de­fence chief ex­pressed con­cern over the pres­ence of a Chi­nese sur­vey ship on Ben­ham Rise, which be­longs to the Philip­pines ac­cord­ing to a 2012 United Na­tions rul­ing.

China has since said it was only ex­er­cis­ing in­no­cent pas­sage in the area and would re­spect the coun­try’s rights over it.

Duterte had down­played the is­sue, and said he had an agree­ment with China to al­low its re­search ships in the area. — Philip­pine Daily In­quirer/Asia News Net­work

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