Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino said on Thursday (May 26) that Scarborough or Panatag Shoal remained within Philippine territory, despite incoming president Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that the country already lost it to China.
Aquino explained that the disputed area — 20 nautical miles from Masinloc, Zambales — made it clearly within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The president said no reclamation activity has been recorded in Scarborough Shoal. Even if there was, the president said the government would not resort to a confrontational stance, because doing so might only worsen the situation.
Related: On West PH Sea, Duterte eyes another option
The Aquino administration has decided to peacefully resolve the situation by offering two solutions: First is by filing an arbitration case against China for its sprawling territorial claims in the South China Sea. And second, by adhering to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreement that prohibits escalating tension in disputed waters.
Asked about what he thought of Liberal Party allies who jumped ship to PDP-Laban, Duterte’s party, Aquino said he understood their decision if they made it to better serve the public.
Aquino was in Tarlac for the Balog-Balog Multipurpose Project, an irrigation dam and reservoir. The project — which was started during the term of his mother, the late president Cory Aquino — is expected to benefit 23,000 farmers.
He also visited Bulacan and Nueva Ecija for the unveiling of the 10-megawatt solar project in Cabanatuan City and the Angat Water Transmission Improvement Project.