The Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday likened China’s presence in the West Philippine Sea to “squatting,” saying Beijing had no legal basis to claim the disputed waters under an international agreement and a 2016 arbitration ruling.

But first, the DND went philosophical following confusion over which country was in “possession” of, or in “position” at, the West Philippine Sea, the portion of South China Sea claimed by Manila.

Clarifying President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks during his July 22 State of the Nation Address, where he said China was in “possession” of the disputed waters and that the Philippines was not “in position” at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, the DND said no single country had “complete and sole control over that entire body of water.”

It said “possession, position, and control are different realities that do not necessarily exist together.”

“While China may have an advantage in the South China Sea because of its existing structures built on artificial islands, which it has hardened and militarized, it is in position, and to a certain degree, has possession of only a very small part of the South China Sea,” the DND said in a statement.

“In the same vein, the Philippines also has possession and position in the West Philippine Sea,” it added.

The DND also pointed out that the Philippines “never gave up any of its positions in the West Philippine Sea during the Duterte Administration and, in fact, it is improving the existing facilities of its biggest island, Pag-asa (Thitu Island), to accommodate more residents and personnel.”

In his July 22 address, the president blamed the Aquino administration for losing Panatag Shoal to China during a 2012 standoff, during which Beijing supposedly reneged on a bilateral agreement to pull out of the traditional fishing area.

China claims more than 80 percent of South China Sea under its controversial nine-dash-line map that it says was based on historical records.

The claim of the Philippines is based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or Unclos, which bestows a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to archipelagic countries. This zone covers Panatag and nearly the whole Kalayaan or Spratly Islands.

The DND said that ultimately, the Unclos, “ratified in 1982 by many countries including the Philippines and China, is the legal basis of the Philippines’ claim of sovereign rights over its EEZ.”

This was upheld by a 2016 arbitration ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that “invalidated China’s so-called historical claim delineated by its Nine-Dash Line,” it noted.

“Thus, the Philippines has two documents to support its claims versus none for the Chinese,” it said.

“Thus, the Chinese presence in the West Philippine Sea is akin to somebody squatting on a piece of land owned by someone else. We are ready to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights using whatever means available to us. Likewise, every able-bodied Filipino should be ready to fulfill his or her duty when the time comes,” it added.

On Monday, DND chief Delfin Lorenzana called China a “bully” because of its behavior in the West Philippine Sea, and said Beijing’s rhetoric of seeking peace in the area did not match its deeds.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam have overlapping claims on the crucial waterway where some $3 trillion worth of goods pass annually. (