Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday hailed President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s call for China to temper its behavior in the West Philippine Sea amid reports that Beijing warned a Philippine military aircraft that had flown over its man-made islands in the disputed region.
“We want to respectfully commend President Duterte on his recent remarks about China’s aggressive and unlawful behavior in the South China Sea. Nine out of 10 Filipinos would be encouraged and inspired by this manifestation of our President’s positive leadership,” Del Rosario said.
The former DFA chief was speaking at the “Challenge to a Rules-Based International System: Moving Forward” forum organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute in Taguig City.
A recent news report said the Chinese military can be heard ordering a Philippine military aircraft to “leave immediately” or else they will “bear responsibility for all the consequences.”
The Chinese military also reportedly issued a warning to a US military aircraft which conducted similar overflights over the South China Sea, with a media crew tagging along.
Duterte said that China should “rethink” its warning to other countries for flying over the airspace above the artificial island that it built in the WPS.
On Monday, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the incident would be investigated.
A day after China rebuffed Duterte’s call for it to temper its behavior, a top US defense official reiterated the continuing commitment of the US to the Philippines as its “close friend, partner, and ally.”
US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall G. Schriver visited the Philippines and met with the country’s defense and security officials led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Schriver also met with Armed Forces chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo and Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya III.
“This was my first visit to the Philippines as Assistant Secretary of Defense, so this was a good opportunity for me to meet with the leadership here,” Schriver said, in a statement released by the US Embassy in Manila.
Schriver, who was on a three-day visit to the Philippines since Aug. 15, reiterated Washington’s commitment to further strengthen the security partnership between the US and the Philippines.
“It’s an honor for us to be considered a friend, partner, and ally of the Philippines,” he added.
During his meetings, Schriver discussed the value of multilateral military exercises like Balikatan and Kamandag and their contributions to the strength and interoperability of the US and Philippine militaries.
China had earlier insisted that it had the right to warn foreign ships and aircraft near its artificial islands.
In a statement to the Reuters news agency, China’s Foreign Ministry asserted that the disputed Spratly Islands remain Chinese territory.
While China respects the freedom of navigation and overflight of other countries, it said it had the right “to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands, and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there.”
“China urges the relevant party to meet China halfway, and jointly protect the present good situation that has not come easily in the South China Sea,” the Chinese foreign ministry added.
On Tuesday, Duterte urged China to temper its warnings to passing planes and ships through the South China Sea.
“I hope that China would temper… its behavior. I do not want to quarrel with China,” he said. But he also said China could not create an island then claim the air above it was its own.
“That is wrong. The right to innocent passage is guaranteed,” the President said.
Del Rosario said the Philippines should continue to speak against China’s continuous militarization in the South China Sea and seek the support of neighboring countries as well.
Del Rosario said remaining silent has only encouraged further aggression into the Philippines’ territory and maritime resources.
“We need to regain the respect of responsible nations by clearly standing up for the rule of law. We can begin by rallying for the support of other countries,” he said in a forum.
“We can seek the UN [United Nations], General Assembly, to issue a Resolution that would effectively order China to abide by the arbitral ruling,” he said.
“We must furthermore be able to police our own conduct and declarations to ensure that we do not project any opposing views that tend to undermine our lawful rights and interests,” Del Rosario said. With PNA