PH ‘assessing’ China sea buildup

The Philippine government has been “assessing” China’s continued militarization in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), President Rodrigo Duterte’s top security adviser said on Tuesday amid reports that Beijing has nearly completed military installations in at least seven reefs in the contested waters.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the government would look into the new structures in the artificial islands as it “could be used against us.”

“We are assessing all of them. So what are the purposes of those structures? They could be for civilian use but we should look to possibilities that they could be used against us. If they are for military use, then that is something that we should look into,” Esperon told reporters in an interview.

He issued the statement following a newspaper report which said that Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Calderon (Cuarteron), Burgos (Gaven), Mabini (Johnson South), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), and McKennan (Hughes) reefs had nearly been transformed into air and naval facilities based on aerial photos.

Esperon said the government had been in possession of the photos “months back.”

Asked if the Philippine government would lodge a diplomatic complaint against China’s militarization, Esperon said, “That’s part of the array of options that we can take. Kaya pinag-aaralaan natin ng mabuti (That’s why we are studying it carefully).”

Esperon, who heads the task force on the West Philippine Sea, said the government was considering an “array of courses of action” to undertake.

“Leave it us. We are trying our best under the circumstances to protect and watch over what is ours whether by virtue of sovereign rights or by sovereignty,” he said.

Esperon said the Philippines would remain friendly with China as it could not afford to declare war.
“What do you want us to do? Go to war? There are actions that we are doing,” he said.

“We can work out things. Keep calm. The South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea is not the sum total of our relationship with other countries. This West Philippine Sea is not everything but it is very important.”

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