Palace: Sovereignty over Philippine-occupied islands nonnegotiable
The Philippines may exercise “diplomatic kindness” toward China but its sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea is “nonnegotiable.”
Malacañang gave this statement after Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. “fired a salvo of diplomatic notes” over the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa (Thitu) Island.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that although the Philippines was being “diplomatically kind” to China, the country’s sovereignty was another issue.
Courteous to China
“We are kind in the sense that we are courteous to them. But with respect to the sovereignty issue, that’s a different story. We have to assert our sovereignty,” he said.
Locsin said last week he sent diplomatic notes to Beijing over the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels, believed to be maritime militia, near Pag-asa Island in the South China Sea.
At a press briefing on Thursday, Panelo said the Philippines was being “diplomatically kind” to China to reciprocate its assistance to the country.
But Beijing should return the favor by responding to the diplomatic notes, he said.
“Of course. They should tell us exactly why they are there and what they are doing there in the first place,” he said, referring to the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island.
Meeting with Xi
He said President Duterte had asked China not to touch Pag-asa Island and might bring up the presence of Chinese vessels near Philippine-occupied islands in the South China Sea during his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this month.
Duterte will be attending the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing this April.
“It might come up during the discussion. [China] might even be the one to respond since we already raised the issue. My educated guess is since we have already raised that, they may respond to that during the bilateral talk,” Panelo said.
The Department of National Defense, meanwhile, said the Armed Forces was “ready to defend Philippine sovereignty and enforce our laws within our territory, including the municipality of Kalayaan, which is part of the province of Palawan.”
In a statement on Thursday, defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the military would “use whatever resources and means at our disposal to defend our own if and when we are called to action by the national command authority.” —JULIE M. AURELIO
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