The Philippine Defence Ministry on Thursday likened China’s presence in the disputed South China Sea to squatting and warned that the Philippines was prepared to defend its claim in the region using any means available.
“We are ready to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights using whatever means available to us,” said Arsenio Andolong, a spokesman for the Department of National Defence.
“Likewise, every able-bodied Filipino should be ready to fulfil his or her duty when the time comes,” he added.
Andolong reiterated that Beijing had no legal basis for its claims to the mineral-rich area, citing UN conventions that were affirmed by a 2016 ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.
`The Philippines has two documents to support its claims versus none for the Chinese,” he said.
“Thus, the Chinese presence in the West Philippine Sea is akin to somebody squatting on a piece of land owned by someone else.”
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a key shipping lane, and has built artificial islands with military-capable facilities over disputed reefs and outcrops.
Other countries with territorial claims there are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China on Wednesday after more than 100 Chinese fishing boats were spotted near Pag-asa Island, the biggest territory claimed by Manila.
Zhao Jianhua, China’s ambassador to the Philippines, on Tuesday said China “will not take the first shot” and was committed to peace, but was boosting its military presence to defend its country and protect its people.