By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
and Camille A. Aguinaldo
“DIPLOMATIC ACTION” is being carried out to protect Philippine territories in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday, following reports of the deployment of Chinese bombers in the area.
“We are taking the appropriate diplomatic action necessary to protect our claims and will continue to do so in the future,” the DFA said in a statement, adding that it was “closely monitoring” the developments in the South China Sea.
“We reiterate our commitment to protect every single inch of our territory and areas which we have sovereign rights over,” it added.
State-run Chinese newspaper People’s Daily earlier reported that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force landed its H-6K bomber aircraft last week in one of China’s airports stationed in the South China Sea.
The DFA pointed out that it was not in their policy to publicize its actions in response to the reported activities in South China Sea.
It also intends to achieve more than its gains from the United Nations arbitral tribunal ruling, such as the formulation of the Code of Conduct in the disputed waters.
“Moving forward, we are taking a different approach to avoid any drawbacks and challenges. In professionally and prudently advancing our interests in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, we will always be guided by our patriotic duty to protect the Filipino people and defend our sovereignty,” DFA said.
For his part, President Rodrigo R. Duterte does not consider China a security threat, citing its “newfound friendship” with the Philippines, Malacañang said.
“Right now, the President does not see any immediate threat. As I said, we do not consider China to be a threat to our security right now because of our newfound friendship with China,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. told reporters on Monday.
The spokesman also said Mr. Duterte’s administration has been addressing the South China Sea issue in a “diplomatic” manner.
He likewise assured the public that the issue will be brought up again in the next meeting by the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM).
“We will bring this issue again in the bilateral mechanism that we have agreed upon with China. This bilateral mechanism meets twice a year and I was told that there would be a scheduled meeting for the second quarter, possibly in June but not yet confirmed,” Mr. Roque said.
As for the previous meeting of the Philippines with the United States of America (USA) in Hawaii, Mr. Roque said: “I do not know who initiated that [meeting]. All I know is: from the Middle East, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs flew to Hawaii where he was expected to be joined by the Executive Secretary, the Defense Secretary and that they were going to meet with the Admiral of the Asia-Pacific fleet. And, of course, the United States has stationed almost the entirety of its overseas fleet to Asia now. It is (the) so-called pivot to Asia.”
The purpose of the Hawaii meeting, according to Mr. Roque, was “to reassure the United States that while the Philippines is pursuing an independent foreign policy, it has not actually abandoned its traditional ally, the United States.”
“(This is) (t)o reassure that we value the continued friendship and security cooperation that we have had with the United States throughout the years,” he added.
When asked if the recent visit of National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. to Russia could also be related to the South China Sea issue, Mr. Roque said:
“Well, malinaw naman po ang ating bagong polisiya, ‘di ba? (the new policy is clear, right?) An independent foreign policy means we want to be friends with all the states, with all the stakeholders. We will not take sides, but the recent step perhaps taken to meet with US officials was only to highlight that the independent foreign policy does not mean we are abandoning our traditional friendship and alliance with the United States. We have not.”