PH-China bilateral talks to tackle rocket launchers
China’s installation of rocket launchers at Kagitingan Reef in the Spratly Islands may be a subject of discussion when officials of the Philippines and China meet for their bilateral consultative mechanism, according to presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
The meeting, which is expected to tackle sensitive issues between the two countries, is scheduled to be held on Friday.
Days before the meeting, reports said China had installed antifrogman rocket launcher defense systems at Kagitingan Reef, also known as Fiery Cross Reef, which is partly claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, China and Taiwan.
“I think that will be covered by the bilateral consultative mechanism,” Abella said in a press briefing when asked about this development.
“I’m sure that will be opened up, that will be touched on,” he said.
As to whether the Philippines’ actions concerning the South China Sea would be affected by the financial windfall that the country would receive from Beijing, he said these were two separate situations.
President Duterte has said he would bring up in the meeting the Philippine claim in the disputed waters, as well as the crafting of a code of conduct for the South China Sea, Abella said.
But an administration lawmaker on Thursday said the Philippine government should give a “decisive and firm response” on China’s reported installation of rocket launchers in Kagitingan Reef.
In a statement, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon said that “anything less would be interpreted by the Chinese and other claimants as a capitulation or acquiescence.”
“The Philippines should not let this pass without a comment against the installation of rockets. We should be immediately calling the attention of the Chinese and do a diplomatic assertion of our sovereign rights,” said Biazon, senior vice chair of the House committee on defense and security.
In a separate statement, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano called on the government to file a diplomatic protest against China if the report is true.
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