AMID grave concerns over China's aggressive activities in the disputed South China Sea, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the Philippines will "thank" Beijing one day for building artificial islands in the resource-rich waters.
He was confident that there might be a possibility that the Philippines could eventually ask China to leave and assume control over its man-made islands.
"There will come a time when China's might had ceased, when we will have to thank them for the islands because since it is only the Philippines that can legally build those artificial islands," Roque said in an interview aired on his Facebook page on the night of Wednesday, February 7.
"Clearly, eventually, those artificial islands will be ours, if we can ask China to leave the islands," he added.
China has aggressively backed its sweeping claims to the South China Sea by continuing to build artificial islands with military bases.
According to a recent newspaper report, China is in its final stage of transforming seven reefs in the South China Sea into its military facilities.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Tuesday, February 6, said the Philippines is closely watching China's militarization in the disputed waters.
"We are assessing all of them. So what are the purpose of those structures? They could be for civilian use. But we should look (in)to possibilities that they could be used against us. If they are for military use, then that us something we should look into," Esperon told reporters.
On July 12, 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against China, stressing that it has no legal basis for its extensive claims to the South China Sea.
Roque said maintaining "friendly relations" with China would be the best option for now.
He said the Philippine government is being circumspect to avoid possible rift with China.
"The truth of the matter is, better to have friendly relations now because while we can’t stand up to them, let’s not give them the opportunity to use their weapons in these artificial islands against us," Roque said. (SunStar Philippines)