PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte won’t give an inch of Philippine territory to other states, the presidential palace said on Monday after Manila protested alleged Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
“Our President is consistent, he will not give even an inch of our national territory or sovereign rights to any other state,” Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque said at an online briefing on Monday.
The sea dispute won’t affect bilateral talks on trade and investment with China, he added.
“Unresolved issues on our territory won’t hamper our diplomatic bilateral relations with China,” Mr. Roque said in Filipino. “Trade and investments can be pushed.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs last week protested a three-month old incident at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, where the Chinese coast guard allegedly seized fish aggregating devices from Filipino fishermen.
The shoal is a prime fishing site seized by Beijing in 2012 after a standoff that prompted Manila to sue China at an international tribunal.
China in response called out the Philippine government, asking it to “stop illegal provocations.”
China claims more than 80% of the South China Sea based on old maps that it says are prove sovereignty. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims.
Meanwhile, military commanders said the Philippines should maintain an “unequivocal” position over its claims in the South China Sea amid China’s continuing encroachment.
“The first capability that we need is really the wherewithal to extend this message — that this government is serious about protecting it’s rights,” Southern Luzon Commander Lt. Gen. Antonio G. Parlade, Jr. told the Commission on Appointments.
“It doesn’t matter if we only have a few floating vessels, a few fighter jets. As long as we are clear and we are unequivocal about this position, then the message would be very clear to other governments,” he added.
Mr. Parlade, whose appointment was being considered by lawmakers, cited the need to integrate efforts among the Defense, Foreign Affairs and Environment departments and the Philippine Coast Guard in protecting Philippine waters.
The country loses $79 billion in annual fish catch from Cagayan de Oro to Zambales alone, Mr. Parlade said, citing a University of the Philippines study.
“That’s because we don’t have maritime or fishery policies,” he said. “We don’t have enough security elements to protect our fishermen.”
DFA did not give any other details of the Scarborough Shoal incident, but also protested China’s “continuing illicit issuances of radio challenges to Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols.”
China’s coast guard routinely warns foreign planes and ships passing through international waters.
The Philippine protest came amid what the US and its allies see as provocative Chinese activities and military exercises in disputed parts of the waterway. Vietnam on Thursday complained about the presence of Chinese bombers on the Paracel islands.
Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard A. Arevalo told lawmakers at the appointment hearing the agency needs more aircraft and patrol craft so it can continue sea patrols.
The appointment body later confirmed the appointments of Mr. Parlade, Mr. Arevalo and 13 other senior officers of the Armed Forces. — NPA and Charmaine A. Tadalan