An intelligence report has been received on Friday by President Rodrigo Duterte, revealing China may be building structures in the disputed Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc in the West Philippine Sea.

In the inauguration of the Davao International Container Terminal in Davao del Norte, President Duterte exposed in his speech that the Philippine Coast Guard saw barges coming in the area also referred to as Bajo de Masinloc.

President Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte said “It is unsettling coming here, nakasakay ako sa chopper, nabasa ko iyong report na iyong [Philippine] Coast Guard made some little trips near them and there are a lot of barges. What is the purpose of a barge? You put something there and bring it somewhere usually. I think they are starting sa [Bajo de] Masinloc and this would be another ruckus there.”

He said that if China keeps on reinforcing its military in the South China Sea, maritime trade on the passage will be threatened by an increase in insurance because risks will also go up.

“Ang problema nito, if it [China] continues to build up, as the intelligence report said last night, it seems to be that new barges coming and they suspect that there is construction somewhere,” he said.

scarborough-shoal-satellite
Scarborough shoal – satellite

Duterte always saying, he will not push to bring up the Hague arbitration ruling during the ASEAN Summit, but in his planned bilateral talk with China, he will definitely push for it.

He said “Let us not talk anything else, let us talk about this arbitration.’ Timing lang po iyan,” the President noted while emphasizing that he will not go out of the four corners of the document and will take out war of his options.

At a press conference after his speech, Duterte said he will ask China to confirm if there are really expansion activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“I’d like him to–the ambassador–to just answer me one question if there are any ongoing construction or expansion in the South China Sea; and whether or not, we can still have the fishing rights which is really the entitlement of our country having won the arbitration proceedings,” he said as he confirmed that he will have private talks with China on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit.

“What I just want to know if there is additional construction going on especially in the area of Bajo de Masinloc. Because if it gets bigger and bigger and bigger, as much as I’d like to avoid trouble now, the other countries might just decide to invoke the maritime safety and begin to question using us–because we have the arbitral judgment in our hands kasi magsalita ka na kasi ikaw ang may hawak ng award eh. So I do not dread the day but I want to be comfortable until such time I talk to them bilateral, face to face, eyeball to eyeball,” Duterte added.

“I hope China would realize that we went out of our way, we walked the extra mile to be conscious about this thing that we are not supposed to ignite. Ang problema is every time they will reply, they would say that they are not willing to obey the arbitral–they could have stated otherwise,” the President said.

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