MANILA—The Philippines said Sunday it was prepared to defend its claims in the South China Sea, but downplayed a plan by Taiwan to deploy missiles in the area.
Defence department spokesman Zosimo Jesus Paredes said the country enjoyed good relations with Taiwan and believed its plan to supply missiles to coastguard units in the areas it claims was not a threat to the Philippines.
“We cannot dictate on Taiwan on what or what not to do,” Paredes told reporters. “For as long as they don’t occupy what we already occupy, we have no problem. Live and let live.”
However, he said Manila was prepared to “defend to the hilt” islets it has already occupied in the Spraltys.
But when asked whether Manila considered a move towards aggression, he said: “Not really… we should not be over reactive.”
Paredes stressed the government still believed in pursuing a peaceful solution, but stressed Taiwan’s move might be misunderstood by some claimants as provocative.
He said Taiwan’s move could be seen as “unsettling” by other claimants to the area, stressing that it should have officially informed them of its plan so as not to escalate tensions.
“I think moves like these should be coordinated (with other claimants) so that we will not be taken aback,” he said.
Abigail Valte, a spokeswoman for President Benigno Aquino III, meanwhile declined to comment on whether the government had officially sent a letter to Taiwan expressing its concerns.
China claims all of the South China Sea, including the Spratlys, a group of islands and islets believed to sit atop vast oil and mineral reserves.
Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines and Malaysia also lay claim to all or part of the Spratlys.
The overlapping claims have been a source of tension in the region, with the United States reiterating a call to all parties last week to peacefully solve the problem following Taiwan’s threat.