Duterte won't allow China to reclaim Scarborough Shoal, Palace says
President Rodrigo Duterte would not allow China to reclaim Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, similar to what it did in other areas within the Philippine exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo reacted on the warning of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that China would try to reclaim Scarborough Shoal before Duterte steps down from office or in three years time because the President has said that he could not stop China from his aggressive stance in the disputed waters.
Scarborough, located off Zambales province, is within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
Panelo, also the chief presidential legal counsel, wondered how Carpio came out with such analysis.
"Can you read the mind of the Chinese government?" he said.
"But definitely, just like what the President has been saying, 'I will not allow during my incumbency any assault on our sovereignty'," he said.
Also quoting Duterte, Panelo said the July 2016 Hague ruling was final, binding and not subject to an appeal.
"Anything that will go against the arbitral ruling would be of course objectionable for us, I think that’s a given because we are against any intrusion into the sovereign affairs of the land," he said.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippine petition against China's vast claim in the South China Sea through its nine-dash line. The PCA also said that the Scarborough Shoal is a traditional fishing ground of the fishermen from the Philippines, Vietnam and China.
Carpio also reportedly cautioned the other Southeast Asian claimant countries, such as the Philippines, to be cautious of the China-initiated code of conduct in the South China Sea.
Carpio said it could be a trap for the Philippines where it has to settle the merits of the dispute in accordance with the COC, which would need China's consent, and not based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
But Panelo said it is still important to have a code of conduct to assure stability in the region.
"What is important is China is being pressured in a sense, because the President when he went to Beijing said that he will raise that issue to the President of China, that a code of conduct should now be crafted; and the President of China has acceded," he said.
China has constructed artificial islands at seven features in the Spratlys Islands, including on Mischief Reef, a low-tide elevation located in the Philippine EEZ. Celerina Monte/DMS