MANILA, Philippines— President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said that the Philippines cannot stop China from building a reported monitoring station in Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in the South China Sea.
“We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Hindi nga napara ng Amerikano ,” Duterte said in his departure speech before his Myanmar visit.
Duterte recalled that former Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay already asked him what to do about Beijing’s move to build facilities in the disputed sea. He said he can declare war to counter it, but the country will lose more than just the claim of sovereignty over parts of the disputed area that Manila claims.
“What do you want me to do? Sir… ano ba’ng gawin ko? Declare war against China? I can, but we’ll lose all our military and policemen tomorrow and we are a destroyed nation,” Duterte said.
“And we cannot assert even a single sentence of any provision that we signed,” he added.
Recalling his bilateral talk with Chinese President Xi Jin Ping, Duterte said that he already mentioned he will not invoke the arbitral ruling unless China “tinkers with entitlement.” He said the talk was witnessed by several others including Cabinet members.
“I will not invoke the arbitral ruling now but there will be a time in my term when I will bring the issue back on the table on the foursquare of the arbitral ruling and it will come,” the president said.
“When? When they shall start tinkering with entitlement. Tubig palang ngayon e,” he added.
The arbitral ruling is a July 2016 decision by an international tribunal that said China's nine-dash-line claim over a large part of the South China Sea does not have legal basis. In the same decision, the Permanent Court of Arbitration said China had violated the Philippines' rights to Scarborough, which is a common fishing area.
Scarborough, or Panatag, is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Philippines and China, which has rejected the tribunal decision and the proceedings that led to it, have agreed to hold bilateral talks on the maritime dispute.
Over the weekend, a top official in Sansha City, which has administrative control over China’s island claims since 2012, was quoted by the official Hainan Daily newspaper as saying that preparations were underway to build an environmental monitoring station on Panatag.
This raised concern as the Philippine military said it is a violation of the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling.