Duterte says U.S., ex-Pres. Aquino allowed military build-up in S. China Sea

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President Rodrigo Duterte. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 5) — President Rodrigo Duterte is blaming the United States and his predecessor Benigno Aquino III for the continuing military build-up in the South China Sea.

He said Friday said that the U.S. and Aquino did not do enough to stop the military build-up. He was reacting to media reports days earlier citing U.S. intelligence assessment that China may have deployed anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles on three artificial islands in the South China Sea during recent military drills in the contested area.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters Saturday that the government will resort to diplomacy and all peaceful measures available to address the issue.

"You cannot build an island, artificial island on the high seas. That's not allowed. And the only country who could have stopped them was America," Duterte said in a speech in Davao Friday.

He said Aquino failed to confront China with the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, erroneously saying Aquino was still in office when the ruling came out.

"So Aquino filed an arbitration case. We won. He was still there. Bakit hindi niya ginawa kung 'yan talaga ang gusto ng 'yan silang mga yellow. Nanalo kayo. Nandiyan pa si Aquino, not so many months there. Bakit hindi niyo pinuntahan at sinita?" Duterte said.

[Translation: So Aquino filed an arbitration case. We won. He was still there. Why did he not attend to it if the yellows wanted it so much? You won, Aquino was still there. Why did you not head there and call them out?]

Under Aquino, the Philippines brought its disputes with China to international arbitration. The ruling came out on July 12, 2016 — a few days after Duterte assumed office — invalidating China's vast territorial claims to the South China Sea on historical grounds and ruling overwhelmingly in favor of the Philippines.

Duterte has refused to demand China's immediate compliance with the ruling, but has promised to take up the tribunal decision with Beijing sometime during his six-year presidency.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Saturday said the Philippine government will resort to diplomacy over the alleged Chinese missile systems deployed in the contested islands of the South China Sea.

When asked how government would address the situation, Roque said, "It includes everything that's provided for in the U.N. (United Nations) Charter, it includes resort to diplomacy, resort to diplomatic protest if the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) deems it fit, but it resorts to all forms of peaceful resolutions of disputes."

China has reportedly deployed missile systems in three islands of the South China Sea during their exercises last month, U.S. defense officials said.

The approach, Roque said, capitalizes on China's relations with the Philippines.

"Dahil ang magkakaibigan naman, di tayo gumagamit ng dahas laban sa isa't-isa," he said.

[Translation: Friends don't use violence against each other.]

Malacañang earlier dismissed claims that the missiles were aimed at the country.