The Militaryization of Spratly begins during the admin Duterte,
The reclamation of China in the Spratly Islands in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea) may have started during the earlier reign but under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration that the militarization of the disputed islands took place in full swing, a former attorney general said Monday.
“Land reclamation occurred during Aquino’s reign. We complained about it before the court and declared it illegal. But all the militarization took place during the current administration, “said former general official Florin Hilbay at a forum in Quezon City.
Hilbay is part of the legal team that won the Philippines case against China in the Permanent Arbitration Court in 2016.
In the landmark ruling, the international tribunal rejected China’s major claims in the South China Sea. He also said that the Philippines has exclusive economic rights to the waters and coral reefs in its exclusive 200-mile economic zone.
But Asian superpowers refuse to recognize the decision, and continue to affirm its claim throughout the South China Sea. The Philippine government has also not ruled out clear decisions favoring economic investment and opportunities from China.
By contrast, Mr. Duterte has repeatedly blamed the Aquino government and the United States for not doing anything to stop reclamation at disputed seas in recent years.
China completed its dredging work to build seven new islands in the Spratly at the beginning of 2016. But the next phase of its buildup in creating air and naval bases was largely after Duterte took office in June 2016.
Data previously released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative show that the construction of China’s facilities at Spratlys and Paracels by 2017 includes 72 hectares or 290,000 square meters.
Kagitingan reef (Fiery Cross Reef) has the most construction with 27 acre or 110,000 square meters. It was also the same year with hangars, airstrips, missile shelters, underground structures, radar communications built or completed.
China has also made greater activity by 2018 with the spread of bombers, military transport aircraft, anti-ship and anti-missile platforms, and communications jamming equipment.
The government has received criticism for its non-confrontational attitude to the West Philippines Sea problem.
Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano has repeatedly explained that they do not want to be involved in a “shouting match” with China.
While the strategy may have changed under the Duterte administration, Cayetano insisted that the Philippines has not yet yielded to its claims in the West Philippines Sea.
Hilbay, however, said favorable arbitration rulings should be the “core base” of the West Philippine Sea strategy.
“It’s important to understand what that decision means. Ito ang pinaka-importanteng baraha. Ito ang unfortunately natin. They may have a strong navy but this is our most important tool against China, “he said.
He said he believed that it was a binding decision because China is a member of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“The fact itself says that China recognizes the UNCLOS system, and part of it is the mechanism for the completion of mandatory talks that decide on the Philippines and China,” he said.
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