“Sa tingin ko, wala po talagang kontrobersiya dahil hindi naman nila pinaglalaban na talagang mananatili sila roon,” Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said on March 25.
The presidential spokesperson made the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian met.
“Nagkausap po sila, pero hindi po iyan lang ang pinag-usapan nila. Bago pa po nangyari itong insidente ng mga bapor ay mayroon na pong appointment na ginawa si Ambassador para batiin ang Presidente sa kaniyang darating na kaarawan. So, kaya nga po noong sinabi ko na ibi-bring up in ni Presidente, it was because mayroon na ngang personal visit si Ambassador na naka-schedule. So, it was a personal visit between two very close friends,” Roque said.
He added that on the side, President Duterte reiterated that the Philippines will protect its territory. “Naniniwala tayo na kinakailangan maresolba ito sa pamamagitan ng UN Convention of the Law of the Sea at pinaninindigan natin iyong panalo natin sa Arbitral Tribunal,” Roque added.
“Nagkaintindihan naman po ang Presidente. Sinabi po ng Pangulo na medyo… well, concerned po talaga tayo ‘no dahil kahit sino namang bansa ay maku-concern kung ganiyan kadaming mga barko. Ang sabi naman po ng Chinese ambassador, sila po ay mga mangingisda na, iyon nga po, nandoon sila dahil they are seeking shelter also,” the presidential spokesperson said.
In a statement earlier released by the Chinese embassy, China denied the presence of Chinese Maritime Militia in the said reef. However, it said Julian Felipe Reef, which it calls Niu’e Jiao, “is a part of China’s Nansha Qundao (Spratly Islands). Chinese fishing vessels have been fishing in its adjacent waters for many years. Recently, some Chinese fishing vessels take shelter near Niu’e Jiao due to rough sea conditions. It has been a normal practice for Chinese fishing vessels to take shelter under such circumstances.”