No need to convene security cluster over South China Sea missile test – Esperon

Published July 4, 2019, 4:31 PM

by Gabriela Baron & Minka Klaudia Tiangco

By Roy Mabasa

There is no need for the National Security Council to convene following China’s reported missile test in the South China Sea, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Wednesday.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (REY BANIQUET/Presidential Photo / MANILA BULLETIN)
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (REY BANIQUET/Presidential Photo / MANILA BULLETIN)

“I don’t think we have to do it. We have actually met last June 17 to talk about some issues. There is no issue that necessitates another meeting of the security cluster even on terrorism kasi may recent incident,” Esperon said in an ambush interview at the sidelines of the 243rd United States Independence Day celebration in Makati City.

Esperon explained that the NSC meets every now and then either as an executive committee or as a Cabinet cluster together with the Defense, Interior and Local Governments, Justice and Foreign Affairs departments.

He admitted that they have yet to receive a report on the reported missile-testing incident in the South China Sea.

“I’m not ahead. I have no report on that yet,” Esperon said, adding that it may probably take some time before they can get a copy of the report that came from the United States Defense Department.

Early this week, the Pentagon criticized Beijing for its continued militarization of the South China Sea in the wake of the reported anti-ship ballistic missile tests it conducted near the Spratly Islands.

If the reports of the missile testing are true, Esperon expressed concern about the possible miscalculations of many vessels going through the area.

“What if suddenly somebody decides to just make a hit at one of the aircraft carriers of either side? So, miscalculation talaga yon. I hope that doesn’t happen,” he said.

At the same time, Esperon called on the US to come up with the report and bring it out in the open with all the pertinent facts rather than floating it.

Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim urged China and all other countries to refrain from “provocative and unilateral actions” following the reported missile testing in the contested waters, partly or wholly being claimed by the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

“We always urge all countries to refrain from provocative and unilateral actions that’s inconsistent with international norms and practices. We have stated our position very clearly for quite some time now. I believe our friends in the Philippines agree that countries, including China, should refrain from such actions,” Kim said during a press briefing prior to the US Independence Day celebration.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Philippine government will only make an official stand on the reported missile tests conducted by China only after the local investigation has been completed.

Panelo said the government would conduct its own inquiry into the reported missile launch incident instead of relying on mere news reports.

“(Defense) Sec. (Delfin) Lorenzana said we will conduct our own inquiry on that because we don’t have fist hand knowledge about that,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.

“We will investigate then we will make our official stand. We will rely on the say-so of whatever source,” he added.

Asked if the government will ask for an explanation from China, Panelo said: “We will investigate on our own, we will do it our way.” (With a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling)