An official of the Department of Foreign Affairs said it is the content, whatever form it is conveyed, that matters in every diplomatic action taken by the agency on issues concerning the West Philippine Sea.
DFA Undersecretary for Strategic Communications Ernesto Abella on Monday night made the statement amid questions on the department’s response on the series of Chinese activities in the contested waters.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano claimed that DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano only filed one diplomatic protest against China, contesting the DFA chief’s claim that the Philippines had filed dozens of protest in the last two years.
Defending his principal, Abella said the Philippines, under the Duterte administration, “engaged in 85 diplomatic actions, 35 of which” were undertaken by Cayetano. He did not identify whether the diplomatic actions were written or spoken.
“We asserted our rights numerous times in bilateral consultations, in face to face meetings and in written documents. It is important to understand that in diplomatic engagement, it is the content that matters, in whatever form it is conveyed,” he said.
“While some critics may nitpick, it is important that our gains are not only conserved but that our national interest thrives, as a careful accounting will show,” he added.
In the statement, Abella reiterated that the DFA fully supports the policy of President Rodrigo R. Duterte that Manila will continue to fight for its rights in the disputed waters, adding that Cayetano himself committed the “Philippines will not give up a single inch of its territory in the South China Sea.”
China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims on the strategic sea lane, where trillion dollars of trade passes annually.
The latest controversial activity of China in the disputed waters was on May 11, when a Philippine Navy boat resupplying Filipino troops at the Ayungin Shoal was challenged and harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard and China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy.
Cayetano last week confirmed the government had lodged a protest to Beijing regarding the incident. PNA