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Duterte: Philippines can't stop China moves in disputed sea

AP  |  Manila 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said today that his militarily inferior country can't stop China's actions in contested waters, responding to a reported plan by to construct an environmental monitoring station in a disputed shoal off the northwestern

Duterte, however, warned that he would invoke a July 12 arbitration ruling that invalidated China's territorial claims in the South Sea if the Chinese "start to tinker with the entitlement," apparently meaning when starts to tap the offshore area's resources.


"We cannot stop from doing his thing, the Americans were not able to stop it," Duterte said in a conference at the airport in southern Davao city before flying to Myanmar.

"Sir, what will I do? Declare a war against " he asked, without saying who he was addressing his question to.

"I can, but we'll all lose our military and policemen tomorrow, and we are a destroyed nation."

Duterte's remarks differed slightly from those of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which said that it was trying to verify the reports about China's construction plans on Scarborough Shoal and that it would refrain from commenting while doing so.

In the past, the Philippine government routinely filed protests or expressed its concern whenever took aggressive actions to assert its sovereignty in contested territories, but Duterte did not mention any planned protest.

The top official in Sansha City, which has administered China's island claims in the South Sea since 2012, was quoted by the official Hainan Daily newspaper as saying that preparations were underway to build an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough Shoal.

The preparatory work on Scarborough and on five other islands in the Paracel island group off Vietnam were among the government's top priorities for 2017, Sansha Communist Party Secretary Xiao Jie was quoted as saying in an interview published in the paper's Monday edition and seen online Friday in No other details were provided.

If the construction plans on Scarborough proceed, it would be China's first permanent structure in recent memory on a shoal that has been at the heart of a territorial dispute with and would likely reignite concerns over Beijing's increasingly assertive actions to cement its claims in the crucial waterway, where an estimated USD 5 trillion in global trade passes each year.

It will also be a defiance of last year's ruling by an arbitration tribunal in The Hague that invalidated China's territorial claims in the South Sea on historical grounds.

Chinese government ships took control of Scarborough in 2012 after a tense standoff with Philippine vessels. then blocked Filipinos from fishing in the shoal, which has a vast, coral-encircled lagoon that also serves as a storm shelter for Asian fishermen.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, March 19 2017. 17:48 IST
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