PH using ‘trust but verify’ tack on China’s ‘innocent passage’ claims
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines will continue to “observe” and “verify” China’s claims even if, for now, it has decided to just take China’s word that its warships are merely exercising “innocent passage” when they illegally enter Philippine territory.
Speaking to reporters in Beijing, Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said the Chinese government had told them that their warships have “no hostile intent” when they cross within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Philippine government had filed diplomatic protests over unannounced entries of Chinese vessels within the Philippines’ EEZ with military officials saying the Chinese vessels had turned off their transponders during their so-called innocent passage.
Asked if the government is buying China’s explanation, Sta. Romana said: “As the saying goes in diplomacy, trust but verify. You take them on their word but you observe what happens and then you make a determination.”
“You have to combine diplomacy with deterrence. You have to combine negotiations with validating what has been said. There is no magic formula, but those are the basic approaches we follow,” he stressed.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who is currently in China to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to raise several issues concerning Philippine territory, has ordered all foreign vessels passing through the country’s EEZ to secure prior clearance or the government will act in an “unfriendly manner.”
READ: PH to act in ‘unfriendly manner’ vs unauthorized passage of foreign vessels
Duterte issued the order after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Department of National Defense is already “getting irritated” at the series of unannounced entry of Chinese warships in Philippine waters.
Two Chinese warships were seen along Sibutu Start in Tawi-Tawi in July, while three were spotted in August which security officials flagged as unauthorized.
Chinese oceanographic survey ships Zhang Jian and Dong Fang Hong 3 were also spotted in the waters of Samar and Ilocos Norte, respectively. /kga
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