PH wants ‘first party verification’ of China missiles in WPS
The government has not verified the reported deployment by China of missiles on three Philippine-claimed reefs in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Malacañang said on Monday.
“We still do not have verification,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing, saying the government wanted first-party verification and not rely on third-party sources.
Nevertheless, Roque said the government was exerting all diplomatic efforts to respond to the issue.
Roque said National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. told him last Friday that the Philippines needs a certain type of equipment to verify the presence of missiles in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Well, I had a talk with the NSA and he told me that there is a technology that we need to be able to verify it for ourselves,” he said.
Roque said the equipment was still “forthcoming.”
The Palace official said the government “could get information from third-party sources but that would not be first party verification.”
He assured the public that the government would exhaust all diplomatic means to address the issue with China.
“We are exploring all diplomatic options,” he said, dispelling claims that it was not doing anything.
He said the government has “to deal now with existing realities,” adding that the President was “trying to do the best that we can under existing circumstances.”
Asked whether the recent developments in the South China Sea would be discussed in the 25th Cabinet meeting, Roque said: “China is not on the agenda.”
But Roque said the government was viewing the latest developments in the South China Sea “with much concern.”
“We are viewing this with much concern because any possible scenario that would encourage military action in our backyard, in our Exclusive Economic Zone and in the—one of the busiest sea lanes in the world is troublesome,” he said.
“So like the rest of the world, we value freedom of navigation. But we have more of an interest because this is covered by our EEZ,” he added.
PH not a threat
Roque also reiterated that China’s missile was not directed at the Philippines.
“Well, you know, I think, I was from the very beginning saying that we were concerned. But you can’t ignore the fact that because of very good relations, we can be confident that that China as a country does not view us as a threat and there is no reason why assuming they have missiles that they can use, they will use it on us,” he said.
Welcomes Senate probe
Roque said it was the right of the Senate to investigate the reported Chinese military activities in the West Philippine Sea.
“Well, iyan po ay katungkulan din naman ng Senado, hindi po namin ipinagkakait iyan sa Senado,” he said.
But he said matters covered by executive privilege won’t be allowed to be discussed in public,
“But katungkulan po iyan at prebelihiyo po iyan ng Senado na imbestigahan itong mga missiles ng Tsina,” he said.
The Palace official expressed confidence that Manila’s improving ties with Beijing would not be jeopardized with the impending probe.
“Well, itong imbestigasyon naman po nila is in aid of legislation. So tingnan po natin kung anong mga bagong batas na mababalangkas na magreresulta dahil sa kanilang imbestigasyon ng missiles na ito sa mga islang ito,” he said. /cbb/ac
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