Palace insists on 'non-adversarial' resolution of disputes with China

MALACAÑANG said Friday that its position on non-adversarial resolution of territorial disputes between Philippines and China has not changed.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said President Rodrigo Duterte has been clear to his intent to maintain "mutual understanding" with China while addressing the spat in the resource-rich waters.

"We need to reiterate the fact that the President has said his approach to the situation, to regional geopolitics, is always been to come into a mutual understanding and dialogue, in order to resolve cases like this," Abella told reporters in Davao City.

"We need to just go back to the fact that the President, at this stage, has been non-combative and non-adversarial, but has approached regional politics from the point of view of dialogue, understanding and mutual support," he added.

Abella's statement came after United States-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) think tank reported Thursday that China continues to advance the construction of its military facilities in three South China Sea reefs.

AMTI said new satellite photographs showed that China pushed through with its plan to develop its power projection capabilities on Fiery Cross, Mischief, and Subi Reefs through the establishment by building new missile shelters, radar facilities, and other infrastructure.

"New imagery sows that while China is keeping attention focused on its negotiations with Southeast Asian countries over basic principles to manage the South China Sea disputes, its construction of military and dual-use facilities on the Spratly Islands continues," the AMTI said.

At Fiery Cross, China has purportedly built four new additional shelters, making it the "most advanced" base of Beijing. It has now 12 hardened shelters with retractable roofs that can house missile launchers.

It added that construction of "very large underground structures," four at each reef, is underway.

The think tank said major construction on the "Big 3" – Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs – "is wrapping up with the naval, air, radar and defensive facilities."

"Beijing can now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers, to the Spratly Islands at any time," it said.

The President has maintained a soft-landing approach on territorial dispute with China even after the Philippines won in July 2016 its petition filed by the Aquino administration at the Hague-based international court that seeks to invalidate Beijing's territorial claim on South China Sea.

Duterte, who seeks softened ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping, has said it is not time yet to raise the arbitral ruling reaffirming Philippines' claim that China has no basis to lay claim on disputed waters. (SunStar Philippines)


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