Duterte’s defence chief signals Scarborough Shoal is off-limits for Chinese rigs
by Raissa Robles / 09 March, 2017 / SCMP
The Philippine president appears to have sent China a message that there are limits to the renewed friendship between the two countries.
Philippine Defence chief Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte had drawn “a red line” on any reclamation by China of Scarborough Shoal, a disputed reef with potentially large oil and gas reserves, 230km from the main Philippine island of Luzon.
“Once the Chinese start exploring, putting rigs there, we’ll talk to them,” Lorenzana quoted Duterte as saying to him. It is unclear when that conversation took place.
Last month, Lorenzana said he believed that China would eventually reclaim the shoal, also known as Huangyan island, which would be a strategic asset for Beijing.
This would happen, he said, despite assurances from the former Philippines foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay, who said President Xi Jinping had pledged China would not occupy the shoal.
Beijing has already built up a number of islets and reefs in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, installing military facilities on several of them.
The United States remains concerned about China’s construction of artificial islands housing military facilities, and expressed fears they could be used to restrict vessel movement in the vital trade route.
It is unclear what prompted such a strong statement from the defence chief, however it comes as a high-level Chinese delegation led by Commerce Minister Zhong Shan visited Manila to discuss trade and aid grants amid renewed ties between the two nations. Read more…