Alejano questions halt on PH hut-building in South China Sea sandbars

Sandy Cay

MANILA — Why is Manila so quick to accede to Beijing’s protest on the building of huts on a Philippine-controlled sandbar, while downplaying Chinese military actions in the South China Sea?

This was the question raised by opposition lawmaker, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, as he said the Chinese government “has no acceptable basis to react negatively” to construction work in Sandy Cay, near the Philippine-inhabited Pag-asa Island.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana first disclosed this new development in the maritime dispute on Wednesday. The Marines were supposed to build nipa huts, or thatched-roof shelters made of bamboo and palm, to shelter fishermen.

“China complained because the Philippines was occupying new features, which it said was a violation of a bilateral agreement,” he said, adding that Mr. Duterte later ordered, “Let’s pull out.”

Alejano contrasted the Duterte administration’s willingness to heed Beijing’s protest even as its officials maintained that China was in good faith over alleged incursions in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“Just a minute reaction from China and the Philippines would immediately halt its actions. Meanwhile, Chinese forces, military and coast guard, are illegally entering our Exclusive Economic Zone yet our DFA Secretary and the President could only respond that we assume good faith in their actions,” Alejano said.

“The administration has been downplaying the situation in the West Philippine Sea while China continues to push us into the corner,” he added.