Beijing to Rody: No structures in Panatag

Christina Mendez, Jose Rodel Clapano, Marvin Sy, Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 24, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  China has assured President Duterte there will be no construction in Panatag Shoal, denying earlier reports that it would pursue plans to put up a monitoring station in the disputed area in the West Philippine Sea.

President Duterte yesterday said China made the commitment “out of respect” for the friendship and relations between the two countries.

Duterte said he got the assurance in the wake of serious concerns raised by some critics, including Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, over his statements allowing freedom of navigation in the disputed seas.

“Why would I fight with them now? Then in that statement of Mr. Carpio, justice and everybody else, let me tell you now, I was informed that they are not going to build anything in Panatag,” Duterte said upon his arrival from Myanmar and Thailand at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City yesterday.

Carpio said Duterte should file a protest against China over the plans to build facilities in Panatag Shoal, also known as Scarborough Shoal.

Panatag, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc, is a large coral atoll located approximately 124 nautical miles west of Zambales province in Luzon.

Duterte stressed Beijing made the commitment not to pursue any plans that would derail the friendship and relations with Manila.

“Out of respect for our friendship they will stop it. ‘We would leave it as it is, don’t worry, we are friends’,” Duterte said, quoting a Chinese official.

Duterte did not reveal the source of his statements but he expressed trust that China will honor its word regarding the issue.

“That was the assurance given by the Chinese government. They are not going to build anything in Panatag because they want our friendship. They (won’t) do anything to place it in jeopardy,” he said.

Duterte recalled his visit to Beijing last year when Chinese officials even offered to have him ride a helicopter to Panatag to see if anything there had been disturbed.

And instead of riding the jetski going to Panatag as he earlier promised, Duterte said there was this offer from China to ride a helicopter.

It was also during the bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping that he reached out for peace and made known that he would set aside the UN arbitration ruling that gave Manila the historical rights in the South China Sea.

‘US failed to stop China’

Meanwhile, the President questioned the US government anew for not acting on the development of structures in the South China Sea a few years ago.

At the 16th National Convention of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Pasay City last night, Duterte recalled that the Philippines was forewarned about China’s plans four or five years ago.

 “There was an overflight made by us, by Australia, by other countries and satellites… and we were warned by everybody that there was something afoot there in the Scarborough… somebody was going to build some sort of structures,” he said.

“You could have nipped the problem in the bud had you taken a decisive action. Now you want us to assert and tell us why not bring the Navy there,” Duterte said referring to the US.

With the superiority of its military assets, only the US could have stopped China, he said.

 No break

In Bangkok, Duterte said he would not forge new military alliances as he vowed to honor the defense treaty with the US.

Duterte, who has repeatedly assailed the US for supposedly interfering in Philippine affairs, said he would not break ties with Washington because of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) signed in 1951. 

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