Chinese military presence doesn’t mean SCS ownership – Palace

Chinese military presence in territories claimed by the Philippines will “never ripen” into a valid legal ownership, Malacañang said Thursday.

In a virtual Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the 2016 Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling has already invalidated China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte, who invoked the arbitral ruling for the first time before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last Wednesday, reasserted that the arbitral victory cannot be erased or ignored since it is already part of international law.

“Ang tinutukoy po diyan ng ating Presidente, kahit anong physical military occupation nila sa mga isla na ang sabi naman ng Tribunal ay kabahagi ng ating (The President is saying that whatever physical military occupation they have in the islands, which the Tribunal ruled is part of our) exclusive economic zone (EEZ), will never ripen into a valid legal title,” he said.

He, however, recognized the presence of Chinese Coast Guards near the EEZ as part of freedom of navigation.

“Alam ninyo po sa EEZ kasi, lahat po ng mga sasakyan ay may kalayaang maglayag. So iyong paglalayag po mismo sa EEZ ay hindi po pinagbabawal (You know the EEZ, all ships have freedom of navigation. So navigating in the EEZ is not illegal),” he said.

Asked if the Philippines is open to proposing a resolution before the UNGA calling on China to respect The Hague ruling, Roque said “anything is possible.”

“But there has not been any step to that effect ordered by the Palace yet,” he added.

Roque, meanwhile, welcomed praises from incumbent and former Cabinet officials on Duterte’s speech, but reminded them that it was also “a restatement of an old existing policy.”

“Kampanya pa lang po, sinabi ni Presidente, hindi niya isu-surrender ang maski isang inch ng ating teritoryo, so iyan po ay pagiging consistent lamang na wala po tayong ipamimigay na teritoryo at paninindigan po natin iyong ating panalo sa (Since his campaign, the President was already saying he would not surrender even an inch of our territory, so he was just being consistent that we won’t give up our territory and we will invoke our victory at the) UN Tribunal of the Law of the Sea,” he said. PNA.GOV.PH