PH calls for restraint in South China Sea
The Philippines on Friday expressed concern for the reported Chinese installation of weapons on artificial islands it had created in the South China Sea, calling on all parties to desist from undertaking provocative acts in the disputed waters.
In a statement, Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, the Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, said the Philippines was confirming the report that China has installed weapons on seven islands it had reclaimed in the contested waters— yet another step in its continuing militarization of the sea.
“We are verifying the report independently. But if the report is true, then it is a cause for serious concern, because it tends to raise tension and undermine peace and stability in the region,” Jose said when asked for comment yesterday.
“We, thus, renew our call on all parties concerned to refrain from taking any action that would raise tension in the region and further complicate the situation. Concerned parties should instead work together to promote peace, security and stability in the South China Sea,” he told the Inquirer in a text message.
China stepped up its persistent militarization of the disputed waters as it ignored the United Nations arbitral tribunal’s landmark July 2016 ruling that invalidated its nine-dash line claim over almost all of the waters.
The ruling, the result of a case earnestly pursued by the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III, favored the Philippines complaint against Chinese incursions into its exclusive economic zone.
It also ruled that Beijing may not stop any other nation from fishing in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal within the Philippines’ EEZ off Masinloc, Zambales, an area China had seized in April 2012.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who has expressed the intent to establish closer ties with China, has appeared to have been tiptoeing around the South China Sea disputes in his international engagements, most recently avoiding the topic in his state visit to Cambodia, a known ally to the Chinese.
Cambodia, a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations like the Philippines, had earlier blocked moves to include the UN tribunal’s ruling in an Asean statement.
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