China gave PH ‘assurance’ on Ayungin incident: Cayetano

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said on June 1 that China gave “assurance” to the Philippines regarding the latest “incident” in the disputed West Philippine Sea, which prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a diplomatic protest against its giant neighbor.

Last May 11, a Philippine Navy boat resupplying Filipino troops at the Ayungin Shoal was allegedly challenged and harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard and China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Cayetano explained that the note verbale on the incident was filed just recently because it “was not settled immediately” through dialogue.

While he did not elaborate on the issue, the foreign affairs chief said the Philippines already received an assurance from China over the recent incident.

“It’s how we should talk and how our resupplying would not be hampered. And in fact, a feature already went here the other day. The conversation was good — coast guard to coast guard,” Cayetano said in Filipino.

The country’s filing of a diplomatic protest was announced by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday, a day after a congressional hearing on issues concerning the West Philippine Sea was conducted, where Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano revealed the May 11 incident at the Ayungin Shoal.

The hearing and the announcement followed two separate meetings on the West Philippine Sea: one on Saturday where Cayetano and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua met, and the other one on Monday, where the foreign affairs secretary and Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Jose Santiago Sta. Romana and other high-level officials briefed the Chief Executive on the situation in the disputed waterway.

It was not clear, however, when the DFA issued the latest note verbale and when China gave its response.

“If I tell what was filed, where it was filed, et cetera, then it means I’m not following our policy. But as I said, this does not mean all remain classified. At one point in time, this will all come out,” Cayetano said in a mix of English and Filipino.