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