President Duterte’s pronouncement on the West Philippine Sea issue in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday may have been lost in translation – or pronunciation.
KJ Rosales
Security execs: China ‘in position,’ not ‘in possession’
Christina Mendez, Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - July 24, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Is it “possession” or “position?”

President Duterte’s pronouncement on the West Philippine Sea issue in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday may have been lost in translation – or pronunciation.

In his fourth SONA, Duterte said the Chinese could no longer be driven away from some areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) because they were already “in possession” of the West Philippine Sea.

His remarks immediately drew flak from various quarters, particularly from Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Reacting to Duterte’s pronouncement, Carpio said the Chinese  had the capability to exhaust fish supply in the West Philippine Sea if left unopposed.

But the President’s national security adviser and the defense chief said Duterte may have been misheard.

“I think the President did not say that they (Chinese) are in possession, but that they are in position,” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said at a press briefing.

“They have the positional advantage right now and they have the equipment to enforce their position,” he said, referring to the Chinese’ occupying the Panganiban (Mischief) and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) reefs over which they built artificial islands.

“Nakaposisyon sila sa islands nila (They’re in position on their islands), but they are not in possession na pag-aari nila ’yung (owning) West Philippine Sea because we are also claiming it,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

“In our 11 positions in the West Philippine Sea, we have been strengthening Pagasa for one. We have our own airport, we have put up special positions for our troops and we have also constructed lighthouses in the area,” Esperon pointed out.

“[In the] meantime, our fisheries, boats, coast guard and of course the Navy and the Air Force have improved their capability to have more control over our domain, which is the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

But presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte really said “possession” and not “position” as claimed by Esperon and Lorenzana.

“Possession. Just like Carpio, he is possessed with that issue passionately but with good intentions naman,” he told reporters.

“But when you’re in possession, isang portion lang ang ipu-possess mo (Are you possessing just one portion)? Kapag mayroon kang mga military installation doon, in other words, pinapakita na kaya nilang bantayan iyong buong lugar nila (they’re just showing they can secure their whole area), eh di in possession pa rin sila (so it’s still possession),” Panelo said.

A landowner does not need to be physically in the place to be in possession of a property, Panelo added.

“Like when you have 10,000 hectares, do you need to be all over the 10,000 hectares to call it your own?” he said.

 “There’s such thing as legal possession – iyon. As far as they’re concerned sa kanila iyon (it’s theirs). And they are in possession kasi they can enforce it eh, iyon ang punto (that’s the point),” said Panelo, who is also chief legal presidential adviser.

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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