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DFA: 85 steps taken to protect territory

If the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is to be believed, the Philippines has “engaged in 85 diplomatic actions” to assert its territorial claim against China’s in the West Philippine Sea since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office nearly two years ago.

Ernesto Abella, foreign undersecretary for strategic communications, claimed that 85 actions were undertaken under the watch of Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who assumed office in May last year.

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Content matters

“We asserted our (territorial) rights numerous times in bilateral consultations, in face-to-face meetings and in written documents,” Abella said in a statement issued on Monday.

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“It is important to understand that in diplomatic engagement, it is the content that matters in whatever form it is conveyed,” he added.

No details

He refused, however, to answer reporters’ questions on what kind of diplomatic actions were taken, what incidents were covered by the actions and whether the actions were directed at China, which has turned seven islets within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea into defense outposts with missiles and bomber planes.

The statement came as the administration was under fire from critics and lawmakers due to its official policy of silence on China’s aggressive moves to claim the entire South China Sea.

“While some critics may nitpick, it is important that our gains are not only conserved but that our national interest thrives, as a careful accounting will show,” said Abella, without elaborating.

Under the Duterte administration, the DFA has made it a policy not to publicize any actions taken by the government in response to alarming developments in the territorial dispute.

‘We’re not capable’

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines was still incapable of defending its territorial claims.

“At present we don’t have any capabilities to even just demonstrate to others that we are capable because we are not capable. We don’t have the capital ships. We don’t have the weapons,” said Lorenzana in an interview with ABS-CBN’s “Early Edition.”

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, China-Philippine Relations, Delfin Lorenzana, DFA, Ernesto Abella, Maritime Dispute, Rodrigo Duterte, South China Sea, West Philippines Sea
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