Palace: ‘Be thankful’ if China built maritime rescue center in West Philippine Sea
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should be “thankful” to China if it indeed built a maritime rescue center on the Philippine-claimed Kagitingan Reef in the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang said Thursday.
“Maybe we should be thankful,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
“I share the sentiment of Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that could help seamen in distress in that area. It can help everybody,” he added.
Panelo, who is also President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said the latest China structure in the Philippines-owned Kagitingan Reef would not affect our claims in the area.
“I don’t think so. It will not,” he said.
“Personally, I don’t think that establishing a distress center is bad,” he added.
The Palace official said the government would also be thankful to China if it also built similar structures in other disputed reefs “if it does not conflict with our sovereignty.”
Asked if the government was aware of the new structure, he said he has yet to confirm if China got the permission of the Philippine government.
“We don’t know that yet. We are just basing on the news,” he said, adding that he would let Foreign Secretary Teddyboy Locsin address the issue.
But does Malacañang believe China will only use it as a maritime rescue center?
Panelo answered: “We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.”
He said the government would file a diplomatic protest if the rescue center would serve another purpose.
“If they see that what they’re saying is not true or if they build a nuclear facility or anything contradictory to what they claim, we will certainly take action,” he said.
“Yes, of course the government will always protest on anything that intrudes into our sovereignty,” he said.
The Chinese state-run Xinhua earlier reported that China has built a maritime rescue center in the Kagitingan Reef, which is part of the Kalayaan Island Group. /jpv
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