The absence of a diplomatic protest from the Philippines over China's deployment nuclear strike-capable bombers in the South China Sea indicates consent to the militarization in the disputed waters, acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio has said.
China's air force recently announced it had landed an H-6K long-range bomber on Woody Island in the Paracels.
Earlier in May, Beijing was reported to have installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its outposts in the South China Sea.
Carpio, the top legal luminary in the Philippines' international arbitration case in the sea dispute, has constantly urged the government to formally lodge a diplomatic protest against China's "increasing militarization" of the vital sea lane.
"Failure to formally protest means the Philippines is acquiescing or consenting to the militarization, and worse, to the claim of China that all the islands, waters and resources within the nine-dashed line form part of Chinese territory," Carpio said.
A formal protest is "necessary," he said, to preserve Manila's sovereignty over Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef and its exclusive sovereign rights over Mischief Reef.
"Any self-respecting sovereign state will immediately formally protest such encroachment on its sovereignty and sovereign rights. The Philippines must do no less," Carpio said.
"A formal protest is recognized by the United Nations Charter as a peaceful and legitimate response," it added.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, the Netherlands invalidated China's historical claims over resources in areas in the South China Sea within the so-called "nine-dash line."
President Rodrigo Duterte, pursuing friendlier relations with Beijing, has temporarily set aside the ruling to avoid confrontation with the Asian power.
Malacañang has expressed concern over China's deployment of long-range bombers and said it is using diplomatic means to address the situation, but claimed that it did not currently see the development as a security threat to the country.
‘Militarization part of China's 3-warfare strategy¦
Carpio said China's militarization of the Spratlys and the Paracels was part of the Asian power's "three-warfare strategy" to control the South China Sea for economic and military purposes.
He said China's construction of air and naval bases and the landing of bombers were "designed to intimidate into submission other claimant states, including the Philippines, to accept the nine-dashed line as China's national boundary in the South China Sea."
This falls under China's third warfare strategy of displaying military might to "force" countries with competing claims into "submission without China firing a single shot," he said.
Finally, Carpio urged the Philippines to coordinate with other states -- Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam also have competing claims -- in resisting China's militarization of the South China Sea.
"Failure to coordinate, and to harness world opinion to support the arbitral ruling, will be handing over to China on a silver platter the West Philippine Sea," the acting top magistrate said.
Beijing has denied it was "militarizing" the South China Sea; a foreign ministry spokesperson has told a briefing that "the South China Sea islands are Chinese territories." —NB, GMA News