Malacañang on Monday continued to blame the “militarization” of the South China Sea on former President Benigno Aquino III as it defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to be friendly with China to resolve the dispute over the area.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the situation in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea would not have worsened had Aquino not sent the Philippine Navy’s biggest warship to ward off Chinese poachers in Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal in 2012.
President Rodrigo Duterte has been criticized for his friendliness to China despite the latter’s aggressive moves in the West Philippine Sea.
He has said antagonizing China over the dispute will bring the Philippines no good as it cannot counter Beijing’s military might.
He can declare war on China but the Filipino soldiers will only be massacred by the well-equipped Chinese soldiers.
“Why will I go to war for a battle that I cannot win?” Duterte has repeatedly said in his speeches.
Roque said sending a Philippine Navy ship to Panatag shoal would only antagonize the Chinese and would only lead to another argument.
“Let’s not forget that it was President Aquino who first militarized the area by sending the Navy, that’s why the Chinese won’t leave the place now,” Roque said.
Panatag Shoal or Scarborough shoal was the site of a 2012 standoff between the Philippines and China. The standoff erupted when Manila sent its biggest warship to chase off Chinese poachers.
China gained effective control of the shoal after Manila withdrew its vessel. It then started blocking Filipino fishermen from the shoal.
Malacañang has assured the Filipinos that Duterte will raise the country’s legal victory in the international tribunal court against China at the proper time.
Duterte said he made the correct step in the sea dispute with China that allowed Filipino fishermen to fish in the disputed region.
Meanwhile, Roque said the Palace allowed a Chinese aircraft to land in Davao to refuel.
“All aircraft, provided they ask for a permit, are required to refuel. There is no law that prohibits a Chinese plane from using airports if they are allowed by any country,” Roque said.