Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said “diplomatic action” on the reported missile deployment at the West Philippines Sea is in place, but withheld details as to how the issue is being dealt with.
“Diplomatic action is the general term: it can include protest, it can include bilateral consultative mechanism, it can include note verbale, it can include a phone call Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he told reporters Saturday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay.
“But we don’t discuss details because that’s the way diplomacy should be done,” he explained.
Latest reports said China deployed missiles to (Kagitingan) Fiery Cross Reef, (Zamora) Subi Reef and (Panganiban) Mischief Reef within the past 30 days. This, following earlier reports it has installed a jamming device in one of the areas in the disputed waters.
Cayetano said these activities in the West Philippine Sea remain a “grave concern” for Manila.
“Of course, it is of grave concern sa atin because may territorial at sovereignty rights claims tayo. Tayo, 100 percent na naniniwala na ‘yung territory natin covers ‘yung disputed areas, and then we have sovereignty rights under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” he stressed.
However, he underscored there are multiple claimants in the region, many of which currently occupy features, some even with installations in place.
“Ito ay ‘di maso-solve ng Pilipinas lang at ng China,” he said, adding critics who claim the government is not doing anything, are ‘wrong’. ‘Yung ginagawa, ‘yung diplomatic action, nandoon. Just because hindi tayo nakikipagsigawan, hindi ibig sabihin na hindi ginagawa,” he added.
During the interview, Cayetano noted the need to expedite the crafting of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
“Puwedeng sakupin ng Code of Conduct ‘yung usapin ng militarization ng mga features sa South China Sea,” he said.
The official bared that the Philippines’ stand from the start, similar with Brunei is complete non-militarization in the area. “Hindi lang ‘wag mag-militarize, but to demilitarize any assets doon.”
“So far, of all the claimants, Pilipinas lang at Brunei ang klaro ang stand na ganoon. ‘Yung ibang claimants, ayaw din ng militarization, pero meron din silang runway, meron din silang bunker,” he added.
China, Philippines and several littoral states have overlapping claims in the vast West Philippine Sea, believed to have deposits of oil and natural gases.
In 2017, after 15 years of stalled talks, the framework of the COC was approved during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit held in Manila.
Following its adoption, China and ASEAN agreed to hold COC negotiations this year. PNA