President Rodrigo Duterte does not see any immediate threat to the Philippines’ maritime security from the deployment of Chinese long-range bombers on an island claimed by Manila, citing the country’s “newfound friendship with China.”
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that the Foreign Affairs has already taken note of the China’s fresh action and will deal with the matter “quietly.”
“Right now the President does not see any immediate threat. As I said, we do not consider China to be a threat to our security right now because of our newfound friendship with China,” the Palace official said.
Although it does not see that Chinese missiles as a threat, Roque said that they are still a serious concern in the South China Sea, where some Asean members have overlapping claims.
“Even if we don’t feel that China is a security threat to us, for as long as there are weapons there, there could be mistakes in the discharge of these weapons and any threat of the use of force in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes, which happens also to be the sea lane where our oil supply passes through and bulk of our exports and imports pass through is a reason for concern to us,” Roque said.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said there would be no expression of “condemnation or concern” over the latest Chinese actions.
“While appropriate language, whether expressions of condemnation or concern, over certain developments, are clearly conveyed through diplomatic channels, it is not our policy to publicize every action taken by the Philippine government whenever there are reported developments taking place in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea,” he said.
He said that the Philippines has “gained much” from its renewed friendship with China.
“Fighting for our rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and under our present strategy, we intend to achieve much more, including, but not limited to, an effective comprehensive Code of Conduct that will promote peace, cooperation, and stability in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea,” Cayetano said.
“Moving forward, we are taking a different approach to avoid any drawbacks and challenges,” he added.
“We reiterate our commitment to protect every single inch of our territory and areas which we have sovereign rights over,” he said.
“In professionally and prudently advancing our interests in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, we will always be guided by our patriotic duty to protect the Filipino people and defend our sovereignty,” he added.
Roque, on the other hand, added it was up to President Rodrigo Duterte to heed the call of former national security adviser Roilo Golez to convene the National Security Council to assess how to handle the latest developments in the South China Sea.
The DFA issued this statement after two days of silence on the landing of Chinese bombers on the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force landed bombers, including the top-of-the line H-6K, a long range strategic bomber in the disputed South China Sea, particularly near the five military bases of the Philippines.
In a report, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Center of Strategic and International Studies warned that this H-6 aircraft or even China’s basic bombers taking off from Woody Island can cover the entire South China Sea where some Asean member countries have overlapping claims.
“Nearly all of the Philippines falls within the radius of the bombers, including Manila and all five Philippine military bases earmarked for development under the US-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,” the AMTI warned.
The Xian H-6K is an updated version of the H-6 medium-range bomber. The bomber made its first flight in 2007 and entered service in 2009.
This long-range bombers is one of the estimated 15 bombers that China operates designed for long-range attacks and stand-off attacks.
Also on Monday, Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon echoed Golez’s call for the President to convene the National Security Council.
“The weaponizing of islands by China within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and the deployment of military firepower capable of attacking Philippine territory is a matter of serious national security concern,” Biazon, vice chairman of the House committee on national defense and security, said in his resolution.
“This issue is beyond politics and involves a threat to national territorial integrity and security, and will affect the lives of not just the Filipinos of today but also those of future generations,” he added.
Biazon also said the government, through the “collective wisdom, experience and expertise” of the NSC members to come up with the official position of the Philippines in the issues in the West Philippine Sea.
“It is urgent for the Philippines to adopt a policy and position that will uphold national interest in terms of security, territorial integrity, natural resources, and patrimony,” Biazon said.
“Such a policy is best crafted with the inputs from those who compose the National Security Council whose collective wisdom based on experience, expertise and diversity of opinion will ensure a balanced conclusion in favor of Philippine national interest,” he added.
Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, meanwhile, denounced China’s continued militarization of the disputed waters.
Zarate, member of the leftist bloc in the House, cited China’s “increasingly hostile actions of deploying missile launchers, radar systems and now even nuclear-capable H-6k bombers in the Paracels chain of islands.”
Zarate said the Duterte administration must be able to take drastic actions against China.
“President Duterte should stop kowtowing to China because China’s actions are further aggravating the tension in the region. China should stop it,” Zarate said.