PHL won’t give up ‘positions’ in West Philippine Sea: DND

The Philippines will never give any of its positions in the West Philippine Sea as it continues to improve its existing facilities in Pag-asa Island, the country’s largest possession in the WPS, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Thursday.

“It must also be pointed out that the Philippines never gave up any of its positions in the WPS during the Duterte Administration and, in fact, it is improving the existing facilities of its biggest island, Pag-asa, to accommodate more residents and personnel,” DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong in a statement forwarded to reporters Thursday.

Andolong added the Philippines is always ready to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights using whatever means available.

“Likewise, every able-bodied Filipino should be ready to fulfill his or her duty when the time comes,” the DND spokesperson emphasized.

While citing that China may have an advantage in the South China Sea due to its existing structures constructed on its artificial islands which it has hardened and militarized, Andolong said this is still only a small part of the disputed waterway.

“Although several claimant countries are occupying features in the South China Sea, not one of them has complete and sole control over that entire body of water,” the DND spokesperson added.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, ratified in 1982 by many countries including the Philippines and China, is the legal basis of the country’s claim of sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone.

This was further affirmed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration award to the Philippines in 2016, which invalidated China’s so-called historical claim delineated by its Nine-Dash Line.

“Thus, the Philippines has two documents to support its claims versus none for the Chinese. Thus, the Chinese presence in the WPS is akin to somebody squatting on a piece of land owned by someone else,” he added.

On Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Manila fired off a note verbale against a reported swarming of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

This came after reports said National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. revealed that at least 113 Chinese vessels have swarmed around the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island over the weekend. PNA