The Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army have not budged an inch, and are in all likelihood trying to make the current positioning a permanent status-quo. Given these testing times, the Philippines Military has come up with its own plan to make sure that these developments do not go entirely in the favour of Beijing.
Much like the heavily contested Senkaku Islands, Thitu Island has been a disputed territory of the Philippines for a long time. The Philippines military has decided to ask President Duerte to fund a logistic hub on Thitu Island so that it can patrol the South China Sea and keep a close watch on the Chinese belligerence in the region.
In the face of growing tensions with China, the Philippines plans to transform a South China Sea island into a military base. As the country seeks to maintain patrols in the South China Sea, Filipino Military Chief General Cirilito Sobejana said that the military would ask President Rodrigo Duterte to finance a logistics centre on Thitu Island.
It is also planning to place high-resolution, night-capable cameras to monitor activities around islands claimed by the Philippines, he said. “Our objective is to drive away Chinese maritime militia and other Chinese vessels from our exclusive economic zone,” Sobejana told CNN Philippines Monday.
China has been looking to intimidate the Philippines in the South China Sea region for quite some time now. Presently, Beijing and Manila have been locked in a serious diplomatic spat due to the detection of hundreds of Chinese vessels in the Spratly Islands. China has refused to call back all the vessels despite Manila’s repeated protests. While the Philippines has identified the boats as maritime militia vessels, China calls them fishing boats.
However, the Philippines is showing no signs of backing off. In response to the aggressive posturing of Chinese maritime militia vessels, Manila has deployed more patrol vessels, including Coast Guard and Navy ships. There has been a focus on increasing surveillance and preventing illegal fishing.
The Coast Guard war drills that began last week are also a sign of growing Filipino nonchalance towards Chinese assertiveness. Coast Guard spokesman Commodore Armando Balilo said, “We are supporting the whole-of-nation approach in securing our maritime jurisdiction.”
On the other hand, China made a very calculated response. China can resolve the dispute with the Philippines through their “common consensus to have dialogue and consultation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing on Monday in Beijing when asked about the Philippine military’s plan. Certain people are stirring up the issue, she added, without elaborating. Thitu Island might be a tiny speck in the vast South China Sea, but the Philippines plans to make it a formidable geo-strategic property and startle China with it