By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippine government will be “thankful” for China’s establishment of a maritime rescue center in the West Philippine Sea if it gave prior notice and not harm the country’s territorial integrity, Malacañang said Thursday.
The government however would not hesitate to file a diplomatic protest against China should there be any deception on the true nature of the facility, according to Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo.
“I will be thankful for one if they inform us initially — kailangan kondisyon mo doon — kung alam natin, wala naman makakasira doon sa claim at tutulong sila sa lahat ng mga nangangailangan ng tulong. Dapat nagpapapsalamat tayo. But kung nambobola ka lang sa amin, at yun ay ginagawa mo lang avenue, magkakasira tayo [I will be thankful for one, if they inform us initially — there are conditions — if we know about it, it won’t harm our claim and they will help all those in need. We should be thankful. But if you are only duping us and using it only as an avenue, we will have a conflict],” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.
“If we see anything that will be inconsistent with what they are saying, then we will make our move,” he said.
Panelo said the government would “always protest that anything that intrudes to our sovereignty.”
Asked to elaborate on the inconsistencies that will merit a protest, Panelo said the government will “certainly take action” if the China center does not actually conduct rescue missions and instead install a “garrison” or a nuclear facility in the area.
China has reportedly established a maritime rescue center in the Kagitingan Reef or Fiery Cross, a Philippine territory being claimed by Beijing. A state-run Xinhua Agency report said the center would offer better support to maritime rescue operations in the southern part of the South China Sea.
Panelo initially welcomed China’s facility since it could help distressed seafarers in the busy waterway.
“Maybe we should be thankful. I share the sentiment of Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that that could help seamen in distress in that area. It can help everybody,” he said.
“The position of DND (Department of National Defense) is it will do nothing because helpful pa nga,” he said.
At present, Panelo admitted that he was not aware if China has notified the Philippines about the establishment of the rescue center. He left to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to address the matter.
Asked if it would affect the country’s claim in the area, Panelo said: “Hindi naman. I don’t think so.” He affirmed the President’s policy on the country being “friends to all, enemies to none.”
He also said the country was willing to give China the benefit of the doubt about the reported facility built within Philippine territory.
“This is also the country that promised us then that they will allow our fishermen and not stop them from fishing in their territory or what they claim to be their territory, and they did,” he said.
“Tingnan muna natin. Let’s not jump to conclusions,” he added.