By Genalyn Kabiling and Roy Mabasa
The Philippines does not consider China a threat to national security but has expressed “serious concerns” over the presence of its bombers in the disputed South China Sea, Malacañang said Monday.
China’s air force has reportedly deployed nuclear-capable bombers on islands on the South China Sea as part of training exercises in the disputed region. The latest air exercises aimed to “reach all territory, conduct strikes at any time, and strike in all directions,” Beijing reportedly said.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government intends to raise the matter in the next bilateral dialogue with China amid the renewed call for “non-militarization” of South China Sea to ease tension arising from the disputes in the strategic waterway.
“We take note of the reports that appeared and we express our serious concerns anew on its impact on constructive efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region,”Roque said during a Palace press briefing.
“We are taking the appropriate diplomatic action necessary to protect our claims and will continue to do so in the future,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a separate statement.
It also reiterated its commitment to protect “every single inch of our territory and areas which we have sovereign rights over.”
“While appropriate language, whether expressions of condemnation or concern, over certain developments are clearly conveyed through diplomatic channels, it is not our policy to publicize every action taken by the Philippine government whenever there are reported developments taking place in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea,” the DFA said.
The DFA pointed out that the country “gained much under the Duterteadministration” amid criticisms that it has set aside the ruling handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in favor of the Philippines.
“Fighting for our rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and under our present strategy, we intend to achieve much more, including, but not limited to, an effective comprehensive Code of Conduct that will promote peace, cooperation, and stability in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea,” the DFA said.
It further said that moving forward, they are taking a different approach to avoid any “drawbacks and challenges.”
“In professionally and prudently advancing our interests in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, we will always be guided by our patriotic duty to protect the Filipino people and defend our sovereignty,” the DFA said.
Roque highlighted the declaration recently issued by the Southeast Asian leaders on the “importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could further complicate the situation in the West Philippine Sea.”
“The Philippines reaffirms the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, avoid actions that would escalate tensions, and peaceful resolutions of disputes in accordance with international law including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.