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Roque: PHL will have to ‘thank’ China someday for structures on occupied reefs

There may come a time when the Philippines will have to express gratitude to China for the artificial islands it has built in the disputed Spratlys in the South China Sea, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Wednesday.

However, this scenario is only possible if Manila would be able to ask China, which has the world’s biggest military force, to leave the area.

“There will come a time when China's might had ceased, when we will have to thank them for the islands because it is only the Philippines that can legally build on those artificial islands,” Roque said in an interview.

“Clearly, eventually, those artificial islands will be ours if we can ask China to leave,” he added.

A newspaper report on Monday said Beijing had almost finished transforming the seven reefs claimed by Manila into military bases.

Commenting on the photos, Roque blamed the Aquino administration for allegedly not doing anything to stop Beijing's building activities.

It was the Aquino administration that took China to the arbitration court and won a favorable ruling that invalidated in July 2016 China's expansive claims in the resource-rich waterway.

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, said he will temporarily set aside the ruling to avoid confrontation with China, but vowed to raise it at the right time during his term. —KG, GMA News