Protesters: China biggest threat to PH sovereignty

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Militant group Akbayan protested at the Chinese consulate in Makati City on Friday against Beijing’s call for the Philippines to drop its arbitration case in the South China Sea dispute.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Protesters denounced China's latest statement urging the Philippines to drop its arbitration case and hold bilateral talks instead to resolve the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Naniniwala kami na ang (We believe that) bilateral talks will compromise our sovereignty, our independence,” said Rafaela David, chairperson of Akbayan Youth, a militant group that held a protest Friday outside the Chinese consulate in Makati City.

As Filipinos prepare to commemorate their struggle against foreign domination on Independence Day on June 12, the Akbayan activists said China has emerged as the biggest threat to Philippine sovereignty.

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David said China is a powerful country, and if the Philippines does not have allies, “we better make sure we have a bargaining chip when we face China.”

The Philippines filed a case at the arbitral tribunal in The Hague in 2013 against China’s claim over virtually the entire South China Sea.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the tribunal’s verdict may come out at the end of June or early next month.

He's expecting the court to rule in favor of the Philippines.

If that happens, he said it may take years before China accepts the decision.

Also read: China says PH ignoring maritime talks proposal

Beijing has rejected the court's jurisdiction over the issue and refused to take part in the proceedings.

“The Chinese have been taught from kindergarten to college that they own the South China Sea,” Carpio said. “It is difficult for their government to just say that we don't own South China Sea. They have to convince their people first. And that will take time.”

Even if the Philippines wins the arbitration case, the government should still enhance its defense capabilities, Carpio added.

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One of the hotly disputed territories is Scarborough Shoal, which is about 118 nautical miles from Zambales and within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. Filipino fishermen were driven away by the Chinese from this traditional Philippine fishing ground in 2012 and have not been allowed back since.

Carpio believes China will soon build an air base on Scarborough Shoal.

Also read: China slams Philippines' definition of South China Sea "reef"

“There are some things that we have to do ourselves. We have to maintain credible self defense force because at the end of the day, it's only us who will be defending those rocks like Scarborough Shoal,” he said.

China has reclaimed land and built artificial islands on some reefs in the Spratlys, and constructed airstrips on several of them.

Also read: PH advised against talks with China over disputed waters

The military has admitted it is still working to attain a minimum defense posture to be able to "detect, identify, intercept, and neutralize" intruders in Philippine territory.