MANILA, Philippines – While China fortifies its presence over the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Philippines strengthens its unprecedented case against the rising superpower.
Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario on Thursday, September 5, said the Philippines eyes using against China the reported installation of Chinese blocks over the disputed sea.
“I think that's a substantive piece of information that we can tack on to our arbitration case. We can have it work positively for us,” Del Rosario said in an interview with reporters after his speech at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) budget hearing at the House of Representatives. (Watch the video below.)
Del Rosario added the Philippines will file a diplomatic protest over the installations in the West Philippine Sea, particularly the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. He said the Philippines will file this protest "in the next few days."
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told lawmakers on Tuesday, September 3, that China has installed “concrete blocks” in Panatag. He described it as an obvious “prelude to construction.”
Based on a second reconnaisance flight by the Philippine Navy, China has placed at least 75 concrete blocks in the disputed shoal off Zambales.
China's 'unusual' conditions
The latest in the spat between the two countries involved a cancelled visit by President Benigno Aquino III to China.
The “unusual request" came over a month after the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) began to hear the Philippines’ unprecedented case against China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In a statement last August 29, China, for its part, said it wants "to overcome difficulties and disturbances" in its relations with the Philippines.
"China values the long-standing friendship between the Chinese and the Philippines, and attaches importance to developing the bilateral relations. Under the current circumstances, China hopes the Philippine side could work together with the Chinese side to overcome difficulties and disturbances, and make real efforts to get the China-Philippines relationship back to the track of sound and stable development," the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines said. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.