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Palace: PH sovereignty ‘non-negotiable’

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 03:24 PM April 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine sovereignty is “non-negotiable,” Malacañang said Thursday, amid the presence of Chinese vessels, suspected as maritime militia, in the West Philippine Sea.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued this strong statement after Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr. said he “fired off a salvo of diplomatic notes” against China in March.

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READ: Chinese sea militia swarms around Pag-asa Island – military

“They have to respond to our protest,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing, adding that the government was expecting China to respond within days.

In an ambush interview, Panelo later said the government was just being “diplomatic about everything” when asked about the country’s friendly stance with China.

“We are just reciprocating the courtesy. We are diplomatic about everything,” he said, citing the aid extended by China to the Philippines, including providing rifles to the government during the Marawi siege and building a rehabilitation center in Agusan del Sur.

Since the Philippines is diplomatic to China, Panelo expects Beijing to return the favor.

“Of course. They should tell us exactly why they are there and what are they doing there in the first place,” he said, referring to the presence of Chinese vessels, believed to be maritime militia, near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island.

INQUIRER.net has reported that Chinese vessels were also spotted near the Philippine-occupied Kota Island.

READ: Palace to Chinese vessels near PH-occupied Kota island: Go away

“We are demanding them to leave the place,” he said.

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Panelo said the Philippines would not allow other counties to intrude into our sovereignty.

“We are kind. But when it comes, with respect to sovereignty, that’s a different story. We are kind in the sense that we are courteous to them but with respect to sovereignty issue, that’s a different story. We have to assert our sovereignty,” he said.

“It’s non-negotiable,” he added.

Panelo said Duterte might raise the presence of Chinese vessels in Philippine waters during his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to be held at the Second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing this April.

“It might come up during the discussion. They (China) might even be the one to respond since we already raised the issue,” he said. “My educated guess is since we have already raised that, they may respond to that during the bilateral talk,” he added.

In July 2016, the Philippines sealed a historic win against China before the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims to almost all of the South China Sea.

READ: PH wins arbitration case over South China Sea

China, however, has ignored the ruling.

Since he assumed office in June 2016 , President Rodrigo Duterte has taken a soft stance in dealing with the country’s maritime dispute in the South China Sea, engaging China through bilateral talks.

Duterte recently told China not to “touch” Pag-asa Island following a report by the military that at least 275 Chinese vessels believed to be part of China’s maritime militia had been monitored around the Philippine-occupied Island since January. /ee

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