The Philippines should defend the country's sovereignty amid reports that two Chinese military aircraft were spotted on one of Beijing's artificially-built islands in the South China Sea.
US Navy/File
Philippines as Chinese village? Opposition urges gov't to fight for country's sovereignty
Audrey Morallo (Philstar.com) - April 19, 2018 - 2:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should assert and fight for its sovereignty in the South China Sea amid reports on the presence of Chinese military aircraft on one of its artificially-built islands in the disputed waters, members of the opposition said, as concerns over Beijing’s militarization of the waterway continue to mount.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday published photos of two military transport aircraft on Mischief Reef, locally known as Panganiban Reef.

The newspaper said that the images, taken in January, showed two Xian Y-7 military transport planes on a ramp on Mischief, one of a handful of reefs reclaimed by China and transformed into artificial islands with military-grade capacity.

Philstar.com could not independently verify the date or authenticity of the pictures.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the former ruling Liberal Party, said that the escalating militarization of the region, considering the Philippine government’s “obliging attitude and behavior toward China,” was unacceptable.

Another Liberal Party senator, Paolo Benigno Aquino, demanded that the government disclose what the Philippines was surrendering for its rapprochement with Beijing.

He also rued President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to back-burn the 2016 decision of a United Nations-backed tribunal invalidating much of China’s expansive claim to the region, through which $3 trillion worth of trade annually passes.

“Has the Philippines become a Chinese village?” Pangilinan said.

Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo), meanwhile, urged the government to file a diplomatic protest on the presence of Chinese military planes on Mischief Reef, which was categorically declared part of Manila’s exclusive economic zone by the UN-backed tribunal.

Alejano, a former military officer, said that the construction of a military grade airstrip in the area was not merely for “display” and that it was only a matter of time before Beijing deployed fighter aircraft on its artificial islands to control the strategic waters.

“This proves the militarization efforts of China to use reclaimed islands as bases of operations,” Alejano said.

The Philippines and China have enjoyed warmer ties under Duterte, who is eager to court Chinese money and investment into the country’s economy.

He has repeatedly said that he was not abandoning Manila’s claim and stressed that he would raise this with Xi Jinping, his Chinese counterpart, in due time.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the resource-rich waters.

Alan Cayetano, the Philippine foreign secretary, said that Manila was verifying the presence of the military planes and may lodge a protest with China.

Cayetano said that the Philippine government was following an “unwritten protocol” in dealing with the issue although he did not address reports that China deployed military jamming equipment on Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef).

Alejano said that the Philippines should not be deceived by China’s assurances that it would militarize the South China Sea.

Erin Tañada, a former lawmaker, mocked Duterte’s promise to ride a jetski to the dispute region to assert the country’s territorial stake there.

“Duterte should show the swagger against China he demonstrated during the campaign and should not stay mum as our sovereignty is violated,” Tañada said.

ERIN TAñADA FRANCIS PANGILINAN GARY ALEJANO PAOLO BENIGNO AQUINO IV SOUTH CHINA SEA TERRITORIAL DISPUTE
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