PH shoots back at China over ‘troublemaker’ remark
“THEY are the ones who started the trouble.”
This was the statement of the Department of National Defense on Thursday after China called the Philippines a “troublemaker” for admitting that it had been repairing its outpost in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“The Chinese government is really confused because of their incessant twisting of the truth in their efforts [to mislead] the good Chinese people. They are the ones who started the trouble and they call us troublemakers?” Defense spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez told reporters.
On Wednesday, Philippine Navy spokesperson Colonel Edgard Arevalo said that the BRP Sierra Madre, the rusty World War II ship in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea, is being repaired to ensure that troops stationed there are not neglected.
About a dozen Navy personnel are aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, a ship that was purposely ran aground in 1999 to serve as a military outpost of the Philippine Navy. Ayungin is within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
“Just as the Philippine Navy is morally and duty bound to resupply its personnel with food, water, medicines, and other basic necessities, it is incumbent upon the Navy leadership to ensure that the minimum survivable condition of the ship is accorded to its personnel on board,” Arevalo said.
China opposed the repair, saying that the Philippines is a “troublemaker” and a “rule breaker” in the region.
Defense public affairs service director Arsenio Andolong said that in his opinion, the repair work does not violate the code of conduct signed in 2002 by China and Southeast Asian nations.
“I don’t think it’s a violation of anything…Considering that it is a vessel commissioned by the Navy. It is well within its right to conduct simple repairs. It’s like your house that you are repairing,” he said.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Noel Detoyato said the “very minor” repair is part of their moral obligation to take care of their men.
“It is within the Philippine waters so who is the victim? They are also throwing out our fishermen,” he told reporters.
There had been reported incidents of China blocking Philippine Navy resupply mission in the shoal. Chinese vessels were also reported near the BRP Sierra Madre.
The Philippine Navy also denied a wire report that said it plans to build a helipad on the dilapidated ship.
“[There are] repairs as needed to ensure better and humane living conditions, yes. But no helipad at the bow,” Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez said in a text message to reporters.
China claims most parts of the West Philippine Sea and had been building artificial islands around the disputed waters in recent months.
The Philippines filed its arbitration case at The Hague in The Netherlands and the hearings on whether the court has jurisdiction over the maritime dispute were concluded last Monday. China has refused to participate in the proceedings.
A decision on whether the UN court has jurisdiction over the issue is expected within the year.
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