“It is absolutely unacceptable for the President, the top diplomat of the country, to joke about making the Philippines a province of China,” Magdalo Partylist Representative Gary Alejano said in a statement. “Such irresponsible banter is a slap in the face of the many Filipinos, including our soldiers stationed in our occupied islands, who work tirelessly to defend our territorial integrity from China.”
The Magdalo representative said the President’s joke is almost becoming the truth in West Philippine Sea. “For instance, I received a report that around a month ago, Chinese fishing vessels and Chinese Coast Guard and Navy have been taking aggressive actions against our Navy ship in Pag-asa Island,” he said.
“This administration claims that it has remained steadfast in protecting the country’s territorial claims. Its inactions however, dictate otherwise,” he said.
Alejano then narrated the incident:
A Philippine Navy ship, which was conducting regular troop rotation and mission, sighted a Chinese vessel lurking approximately 4 nautical miles off Pag-asa Island. A few minutes later, 2 more Chinese vessels were spotted heading towards the first vessel. Afterwards, Philippine Navy ship monitored a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel and a People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) warship roughly 5 nautical miles off Pag-asa Island. The Chinese vessels proceeded to form a semi-circle formation around Pag-asa Island. Meanwhile, the Chinese Coast Guard and Navy vessels closed in and shadowed the Philippine Navy ship for as close as 2 nautical miles northwest of Pag-asa Island, near the sandbars.
The semi-circle formation and shadowing used by the Chinese vessels around the Philippine Navy ship displayed the “cabbage strategy” being employed by China to control a specific area. The quick response of Chinese vessels upon the arrival of our Navy ship in Pag-asa Island suggests that they are permanently stationed nearby. We could infer that the reclaimed areas by China in the West Philippine Sea, particularly Subi Reef, are being used as forward operating bases. Again, confirming the militarization in the disputed waters.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the joke made by President Rodrigo Duterte regarding Philippines becoming a province of China was made to emphasize the West Philippine Sea and Philippine Rise are ours “but we are one with China. Take it in that spirit.”
“But he was very firm that we have title over the disputed are in West Philippine Sea, and we have rights in Benham – exclusive rights in Philippine Rise,” Roque said.
Sources: https://www.facebook.com/Rep.AlejanoMagdalo/photos/a.532106460248664.1073741829.490802617712382/1452236021569032/; https://pcoo.gov.ph/press_briefing/press-briefing-presidential-spokesperson-secretary-harry-roque-13/