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AFP chief opts for diplomacy in resolving sea claims issue

Armed Forces Chief Gilbert Gapay said Monday the issues in the West Philippine Sea should be dealt with peacefully.

He told reporters that security forces would follow the national government policy of diplomacy despite the increasing tensions in the region.

"Maybe people are seeing that we are not very aggressive in claiming what's ours, but it doesn’t mean we’re abandoning our claims. They’re still there, and right now we follow the government policy of diplomacy and settling the issue in a peaceful way," Gapay said.

"Perhaps soon we will have the code of conduct being ratified by every member and every claimant in the area, so our 3effort is to maintain our naval presence in the area and monitor those places that have been occupied.”

Gapay made his statement even as Akbayan Chairman Emeritus Etta Rosales on Monday called on the Duterte administration to disclose and audit all the loan agreements it signed with the Chinese government after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. recommended the termination of the government contracts with the Chinese companies involved in the artificial island building in the West Philippine Sea.

"To fully protect our national interest, a comprehensive debt audit of all Chinese loans is necessary to determine if these loan agreements are legitimate and don't carry unjust conditions that could undermine our country's sovereignty, territory, economy and security," Rosales said.

Gapay assured the public that the military was constantly monitoring the disputed areas and securing the Filipinos fishing there.

China had earlier urged the Philippines to stop its alleged illegal provocations in the West Philippine Sea.

It made the statement after the Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest against China for its "continuing illicit issuances of radio challenges [against] Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea."

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana hit back, saying the Chinese forces were the ones making provocations in the resource-rich region, including its illegal occupation of the areas within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Topics: Gilbert Gapay , West Philippine Sea , Etta Rosales , Teodoro Locsin Jr.
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