The government is determined to prevent the loss of another territory after coast guard authorities drove away Chinese vessels from Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang declared Wednesday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque lauded the latest coast guard move, saying the country was now driving away such foreign vessels from local waters rather than the one being dispersed.
“Yan po ang administrasyon ni Presidente Rodrigo Roa Duterte sa administrasyon ni Albert del Rosario nung siya ay DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) tayo ang pinapalayas, pero kay Presidente Duterte tayo ang nagpapalayas (That’s the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. During the administration of Albert del Rosario as DFA Secretary, we were driven away but under President Duterte, we are the ones driving them away),” Roque said in a media interview Wednesday, May 5.
“Malinaw po nasa loob yan ng ating exclusive economic zone at napalakalapit sa Palawan. Walang kaduda duda tayo lang may karapatan sa area na ‘yun (It is clear that it is within our executive economic zone and is very near Palawan. There is no doubt that we have rights over the area),” he added.
Roque also maintained that the government remains committed to protecting the country’s sovereignty and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.
“Ang pinandigan po ng Presidente wala pong teritoryong mawawala sa administrasyon niya at ‘yan po ang kanyang pinatutupad ngayon (The President has vowed no territory will be lost during his administration and that’s being implemented now),” he said.
“Lahat po ng teritoryo dapat pangalagaan at tama po na ang coast guard ang magbantay niyan dahil kabahagi po yan ng ating tanging yaman (All territories must be protected and the coast guard is right to safeguard them because that’s part of our natural resource),” he said.
Seven Chinese ships, allegedly manned by maritime militia, were recently spotted at the Sabina Shoal, located within the country’s exclusive economic zone. The foreign ships reportedly went away after being challenged by local coast guard ships patrolling the area late last month.
Tensions between the Philippines and China have recently escalated after Manila protested the presence of Chinese ships within its local waters. Some ships have reportedly left contested shoal but others have supposedly dispersed in other parts of the West Philippine Sea.
The Duterte government has preferred to pursue its claims through legal and diplomatic means rather than wage war with China.