Malacañang on Tuesday assured the public that the Philippines will not give up any of its territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea amid China’s militarization of the contested area.
“Right now, our position is still the same: whatever happens there, no territory will be given. We will assert our rights and sovereignty on the maritime territory that is part of our exclusive economic zone,” Roque said in a Palace media briefing.
Roque said the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration decision is evidence of the country’s sovereign rights on the islands and its maritime claims within the exclusive economic zone.
The tribunal ruled in 2016 that China’s nine-dash line map, which covers nearly the whole of South China Sea, has no legal basis.
Roque earlier said the Philippines had serious concerns over reports that China has landed combat aircraft, including a long-range H-6K bomber at an airfield of one of its reclaimed island in the South China Sea.
China has denied the militarization allegations, saying the movement of the bombers was just part of the normal Chinese military training in the South China Sea which Beijing claimed “are Chinese territories.”
Roque said the Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, is already addressing the deployment of Chinese military assets in the WPS.
“I cannot understand why you are saying that we are not doing anything. It is not publicly announced by the DFA but we are doing something [on this issue],” Roque said.
He said the country is “quietly working” with its Association of Southeast Asian Nations neighbors, particularly those with similar claims like Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei to address the issue.
“We have already a common statement by insisting on Asean statement,” Roque said, referring to the Asean Declaration calling for China to heed on the non-militarization of the WPS.
Roque said the Chinese military activities in the disputed territory will also be discussed in the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism meeting between the Philippines and China “probably” in June.
“But at the same time, we are moving on with our bilateral relations in which we can agree on something that is agreeable and set aside contentious issues for now,” he said.
Roque said when China built the artificial islands in the WPS, “we all know that it will be used for military bases and not for tourist attractions.”
He said President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said that what is happening in the WPS is a standoff between China and the Philippines’ longstanding ally, the US.
“We will not join them but of course, we are concerned because we are also using the sea [WPS] for our livelihood,” Roque said.
Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday called on Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to file a diplomatic protest against China.
Robredo disputed President Rodrigo Duterte’s view that the deployment of long-range bombers on Wood Island was no threat to the Philippines.
“That is security threat to the Philippines and the entire region because of the continued establishment [of China’s] structures at the islands there. Our Constitution prohibits the presence of any nuclear weapon in any part of the Philippines,” she said.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio also called on Malacañang to take action on the increasing militarization of China of the disputed areas in the South China Sea, which was branded as a “creeping invasion.”
In a statement released to the media on Tuesday, Carpio expressed alarm on the reports about the recent deployment by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China of H-6K long-range bomber that can carry nuclear-armed cruise missiles on Woody Island.
Carpio said that the government must formally protest such action of China that he believed was an “encroachment on its sovereignty and sovereign rights.”
“Failure to formally protest means the Philippines is acquiescing or consenting to the militarization, and worse, to the claim of China that all the islands, waters, and resources within the nine-dashed line form part of Chinese territory,” Carpio added.
A spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Col. Edgard Arevalo, said Philippine maritime and air patrols off the West Philippine Sea were ongoing despite the Chinese buildup.
“We continue to conduct air and maritime patrols in those areas and we feed everything that we monitor to our national leadership,” he said.
Arevalo also assured the public that the military will never renege on its constitutional obligation to help secure and defend the country’s territorial integrity.