MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Tuesday said he didn’t see the need for President Benigno Aquino III to mention the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute with China during his fourth State of the Nation Address the day before.
He said the arbitration proceedings by the United Nations has started.
“Well because the process is moving, it’s been organized, the members have been organized, so the process has begun,” Gazmin told reporters in Filipino in an interview at Camp Aguinaldo.
“Our legal proceedings might be affected,” he added.
A five-member tribunal has been formed for the arbitration process, and the proceedings began in the Netherlands last week despite China’s refusal to cooperate.
Gazmin said that China has maintained its presence in Ayungin (Second Thomas Shoal) off Palawan and Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) off Zambales, which are both well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
He said there were at least two Chinese ships monitored in the periphery of Ayungin and two Chinese Maritime Surveillance ships in Panatag.
The West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) had been a longtime source of conflict in the region, with China claiming ownership of the entire area.