The Philippines should be thankful that China has built a maritime rescue center in the Philippine-claimed Kagitingan Reef, the Palace said Thursday, insisting that Beijing ’s facilities would not affect the Philippines’ claim to the West Philippine Sea.
But Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said the Philippines should protest China’s building activities on Fiery Cross Reef, locally known as the Kagitingan Reef, in the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio, a known advocate of Manila’s rights in the disputed waters, said the Philippine government should file a note verbale over China’s building of a maritime rescue center on the reef.
“That’s an exercise of administration and we should contest that because under our law that’s Philippine territory,” Carpio told reporters.
“If a foreign country will say ‘we will use this as a rescue center,’ it should not do without our approval because that’s ours, so we should protest,” Carpio said.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo echoed the previous stance of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the reported rescue hub might even aid Filipino seafarers in distress.
“Maybe we should be thankful. I share the sentiment of Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that it could help distressed seamen in that area. It could help everybody,” Panelo said.
“The position of the Department of National Defense is it will do nothing because it’s even helpful. It’s a distress center, this means it can assist those who need help in that region.”
Panelo also downplayed the fact that Beijing has erected a facility in the country’s territory, insisting that China’s distress center, which is located in the country’s territory, was “not bad.”
“Personally, I don’t think establishing a distress center is bad. [It’s not bad] because it will be helping everybody in distress,” Panelo said.
But he said China should have asked the permission of the Philippine government, adding that the government would only move if it saw inconsistencies with the announcement of China.
“We will give them the benefit of the doubt. If we see anything that will be inconsistent with what they are saying, then we will make our [move],” Panelo said.
“Of course, the government will always protest anything that intrudes into our sovereignty.”
Pressed about the issue, Panelo admitted he did not know if the government was aware of the launching of the rescue center before a report from the state-run Chinese news outfit Xinhua.
He also deferred to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., but the country’s top diplomat has yet to release a statement.