MANILA, Philippines—The government said it has nothing to do with the planned one-day global action on July 24 by Filipinos around the world to protest against Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), but will not try to stop it either.
“Filipinos have all the right to express and voice out in a peaceful manner their positions and sentiments on the issue of the West Philippine Sea,” said Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, the Department Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson.
‘In private capacity’
At a news conference, Hernandez stressed that the government “did not sanction” the Global Day of Protest to be staged worldwide by the West Philippine Sea Coalition, saying these were being led by “individuals and groups in their private capacity.”
“These are not sanctioned by the government, but being in a democracy, people have a right to voice out their position on different issues,” Hernandez said.
Asked whether the protests could inflame the already tense relations between Manila and Beijing, Hernandez said the DFA hoped it would not as people just want to express their positions on the issue.
Hernandez also said the global protest action will not affect the Philippines’ arbitration case against China before the United Nations.
“The arbitrary tribunal will proceed with the case based upon its rules and merits of this case, so other activities I believe will not affect our case and how they will deal with this,” he said.
Asked to comment on the scathing statements made by Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying who blamed Manila for the deterioration of Chinese-Philippines relations, Hernandez said China can end the dispute by respecting the rule of law.
He said the core issue, as defined by Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario in the recent meetings in Brunei of the Association Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), was China’s “excessive claim violative of international law of indisputable sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea through its 9-dash claim.”
Meanwhile, the DFA on Thursday sent birthday greetings to ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela who turned 95 years old Thursday in a hospital in Pretoria.
“We join with the rest of the world in wishing former President Nelson Mandela a happy birthday today,” Hernandez said at the same news briefing.