DFA assures: Gov’t not sitting on WPS issue

Published June 1, 2018, 2:38 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) asked for the public’s understanding for not publicizing government measures in response to China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea amid criticisms of the government’s supposed inaction to address the issue.

DFA Undersecretary Ernesto Abella made the statement after the Palace confirmed that the Philippines already filed diplomatic protests against China over several issues in the disputed waters, including the reported harassment on Philippine military forces by Chinese forces there.

DFA Undersecretary Ernesto Abella (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)
DFA Undersecretary Ernesto Abella

Abella, in an interview in Malacañang after almost seven months, allayed the public’s concern that the government is not doing anything about China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea.

He said that the DFA understands the public reaction as people also need assurance that the government is not sitting idly amid China’s reclamation and militarization activities there.

“We understand na kailangan kasi maassure, pero dito po siguro nanggagaling si SFA na lagi nyang nasasabi na trust us (We understand that the people need assurance, but maybe this is why SFA always asks to trust us),” Abella said, referring to Foreign Affairs Secretary (SFA) Alan Cayetano.

“Of course there are always aspersions and criticisms, but I would like to assure you na hindi po pabaya ang ating mga departamento lalo na sa (that the departments are not neglecting the issue, especially in the) Executive branch,” he added.

President Duterte’s former spokesperson also said that the DFA appreciates all calls and criticisms of the public regarding the issue, but pointed out that some details are classified.

“Of course we appreciate all these calls, we appreciate the calls of the senate, we appreciate the calls of the critics, even the critics. But we’d like to continue to assure them that there is a lot of serious engagement going on,” Abella said.

“There are certain matters kasi na medyo classified, so rest assured po, we continue to encourage the public, to rest assured na hindi po pabaya ang gobyerno, lalo na sa DFA (There are matters that are considered classified, but rest assured that the government is not neglectful, especially the DFA),” he added.

Abella also said all issues raised by the Philippines against China are being discussed.

“Kahit madetalye, at madiin at mabigat ang pinag-uusapan, hindi po kasi pwedeng ilantad lahat (Issues being discussed are detailed and grave so we cannot reveal all). So we continue to assure you, that we continue to engage in very serious conversations,” he said.

“Those are classified details but whatever concerns we have, especially regarding those matters, talagang nata-touch on po ‘yun (they are being discussed),” he added.

“[It is] safe to assume that anything that is of considerable concern to the safety is covered,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Abella said that the Philippines continues to engage in diplomatic actions towards partner countries, especially those who are having claims in the disputed waters.

“We continue to ensure that our areas of cooperation especially with China are protected: safety of the seas, safety of travel, oil and gas, fisheries, and environmental concerns. We continue to engage in diplomatic actions,” he said.

“Ang atin lang po talaga, ang lagi nating ina-underline, for example ‘yung isang concern natin, safety on the seas, na hindi sya mai-interrupt, ‘yung mga safeties along that line (What we are really doing is, we always underline our concern that safety on the seas will not be interrupted. Those kinds of issues and everything along that line,” he added.