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Chinese ship seen off Samar

A Chinese vessel may have been spotted in Eastern Samar but the Philippine Coast Guard declared it has yet to find any violations for sailing in the country’s territorial waters.

PRESIDENT Duterte has a truly difficult task with regards to a group of islands in the South China Sea west of Palawan. Collectively known as the Kalayaan islands, they include Pagasa (37.2 hectares), Likas (18.6 hectares), Parola (12.7 hectares), Lawak (7.93 hectares), and Kota (6.45 hecares). Filipino fishermen live there today; they have been on Lawak since 1970.

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AS I first made a prediction back in 2016 in this column, sounding the alarm, of an impending reality unfortunately coming to pass. Scarborough Shoal (SS), also known as Panatag Shoal, will be taken by China. A few days ago, the Mayor of Sansha, Xiao Jie, announced there would be monitoring stations built in six islands and reefs, to include SS of the northwestern Philippines. Hainan Daily newspaper seconded the announcement by stating, this was “among the government’s priorities for 2017”.   

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So far, the strongest and most credible voice to emerge from the mishmash of arguments on issues affecting our national territory is that of Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who urged Malacanang to make Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off limits to any Chinese development, whether for weather monitoring or any other alibi.

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The Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday assured that the Philippines is keeping a close watch on Panatag or Scarborough Shoal on the West Philippine Sea following reports that China is preparing to build a monitoring station there.

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There should be no problem for the Philippines over Benham Rise to the east of Luzon. There we are the sole claimant and the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf ruled in 2012 that Benham Rise is part of the Extended Continental Shelf of the Philippines. It is not Philippine territory, we have no ”sovereignty” over it, but we have “sovereign rights” – exclusive rights to explore and exploit the oil, gas, and other mineral resources in that undersea plateau as big as the island of Luzon.

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