MANILA, Philippines — China is both in “possession” and “in position” at the South China Sea.
This was the clarification made by Malacañang on Wednesday after security officials said China is just “in position” at the disputed sea and not “in possession” as said by President Rodrigo Duterte during his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona).
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Tuesday that China is just “in position” on the South China Sea as it had established its presence in key areas of the contested waterway. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana backed Esperon’s claim.
READ: China in possession of WPS? They’re just ‘in position,’ Esperon says
“When they said they are in position, they are actually referring to what I said yesterday (Tuesday),” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.
Panelo said in a Palace briefing Tuesday that the presence of the Chinese military in the disputed South China Sea makes Beijing “in possession” and “in control” of the resource-rich ocean.
On Wednesday, Panelo told reporters that China has “legal and constructive possession” of the South China Sea.
“They are positionally in advantage kasi nga marami silang military. So there is no contradiction between position and possession,” he said.
“Possession and position are the same because they are in constructive possession by reason of the position and control of the military installations there,” he added.
In his Sona on Monday, Duterte said China is already “in possession” of the South China Sea.
“When he said possession, he also refers to the position of the military installations there. That’s why they are in control,” Panelo explained Wedbesday. /kga