MALACAÑANG ON Thursday said the Philippines should “perhaps be thankful” to China for the reported maritime rescue center it constructed in the Philippine-claimed Kagitingan Reef in the West Philippine Sea because it will be beneficial to seamen in distress. Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported that the Ministry of Transport of China opened last Tuesday “a maritime rescue center in Yongshu reef,” also known as Fiery Cross Reef and Kagitingan Reef. The report said the facility will “offer better support to maritime rescue operations in the southern part of the South China Sea.” Sought for comment during a Palace briefing on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said: “Maybe we should be thankful. I share the sentiment of Secretary Delfin (N.) Lorenzana that, ‘that could help seamen in distress in that area.’ It can help everybody.’” Mr. Panelo also said that the Philippine government has yet to confirm the new report through the Department of Foreign Affairs. “We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt,” he said. Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, who was part of the legal team in the international court case won by the Philippines on the West Philippine Sea, said the government must protest the Chinese structure because “Fiery Cross Reef is part of the geologic features we claim in the Kalayaan Island Group.” “If we do not protest, then we impliedly consent to China’s act of putting up a maritime rescue center there. This means we are recognizing that China has a right to occupy and use Fiery Cross Reef… This contradicts our claim that we have sovereignty over Fiery Cross Reef,” he added. — Arjay L. Balinbin