Cayetano downplays Alejano’s worries on China ships at Pagasa Island
“What’s the problem with that?”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said this to Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano after the latter expressed alarm over the alleged presence of five Chinese vessels near Pagasa Island.
Citing sources from the military, Alejano said the “suspicious massing up of Chinese Navy and Coast Guard and maritime militia north of Pag-asa Island” threatens the country’s interest in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
“I don’t know the exact number but the question there is, is there a problem with that?” Cayetano said in an ambush interview at the Senate on Thursday.
“I know he has good intentions. I know that’s his advocacy but what’s he alarmed about?” Cayetano said.
Cayetano then insisted that contrary to the perception of many, China is the Philippines’ ally.
“Let me ask this: How many times did you ask me bakit maraming American ships nandoon? You’ve never asked me that, kasi ang tingin niyo kaalyado natin ang US at kalaban natin ang China. Well I’m telling you now, ally natin ang US, hindi natin kaaway ang China, hindi natin kaaway ang Japan, Vietnam at Malaysia. They’re all our friends,” he said.
“The mere fact na may 10 ships ang United States, o may five ships sila o ang Vietnam. Anong problema? Ang problema is kung nag-rereclaim o may bagong pinupuntahan o tinataboy tayo pero kung ang mindset natin ay ‘may Chinese ship doon,’ we will be misinforming the people,” Cayetano added.
The former senator also said that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will continue to uphold the primary interest of the defense sector, which puts premium on “diplomacy rather than the barrel of the gun.”
“What President Duterte instructed us is to not wage war. Our military is always there to protect our interest, to protect our territorial integrity and if there’s a diplomatic solution, that’s what we’re going to follow,” he said.
Last Tuesday, Alejano, a former soldier, said he received information from his sources in the military that since three days ago, China has deployed two frigates, one Coast Guard vessel and two large fishing vessels, with their maritime militia, one to three nautical miles north of Pagasa Island.
“Further, two days ago, a Philippine government ship from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was prevented by Chinese fishing vessels from going near our sandbars located generally west of Pag-asa, around two to seven miles away,” he said.
Alejano said this proves that Chinese vessels continue to harass Filipino fishermen despite the Philippines’ cooler relationship with China.
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