Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday shrugged off China’s assertion that the Philippines committed “illegal provocations” when its military aircraft conducted regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
“That’s their reaction. Let me emphasize this, it’s a free world. Everyone is free to say what they want. You want to say something on behalf of your own country, go ahead and say it. I have formally protested certain actions by China in what is indisputably our territory. Let them say that,” Locsin said during an interview at ANC’s Headstart program.
Despite China’s strong public pronouncement against Philippine aircraft doing routine flyovers, Locsin said the country will continue conducting regular maritime patrols in the area which he called “ours”.
“Yes, we’ll gonna continue our patrol because it’s ours. That’s all the risk to it and they’ll gonna continue to call it illegal provocation,” Locsin said when asked on what action the Department of Foreign Affairs is going to take in response to China’s statement.
Locsin is not keen at the moment on filing a note verbale in response to Beijing’s statement alleging that the Philippines “infringes on China’s sovereignty and security” by sending military aircraft to patrol the Spratlys and reefs that it claims.
“Let them say that. They can call it illegal provocations. You can’t change their mind, they already lost the Arbitral award, they’ll not accept it. How compelling a reason could there be? That is their choice. It’s a free world. I wouldn’t stop anyone from talking,” Locsin said
Locsin said he reserves judgment as to whether the latest Chinese statement is “worth answering again.”
On August 20, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest to China over the Chinese coast guard’s illegal confiscation of fish aggregates of Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc sometime in May 2020.
In the same protest, the Philippines also resolutely objected to Beijing’s “illicit issuances of radio challenges to Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
Two days later, China sharply responded by urging the Philippines to “immediately stop illegal provocations and defended its coast guard’s confiscation of Filipino fishermen’s fish aggregating devices or ‘payaos.’
“It is beyond reproach for China Coast Guard to conduct law enforcement in Huangyan Dao (Bajo de Masinloc) waters as it is a lawful practice,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said.