The Philippine government will maintain its ties with China amid reports that Beijing had finished the construction of military installations in the dispute South China, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Roque reiterated that the Duterte administration will always come into a mutual understanding and trust in order to resolve the issue.
In a press briefing, the presidential spokesperson said the military facilities built in Kagitingan Reef or Fiery Cross was already being built under the previous administration and it has been long been militarized.
Manila will continue to pursue friendly ties with Beijing and will not go to war with China which is an Asian power, Roque said.
He said that China has not breached its “good faith commitment” in the South China Sea, since it did not reclaimed any reefs being disputed, and he downplay the bitter maritime dispute in pursuit of better economic ties with Asia’s largest economy.
The Palace official also downplayed the apparently new construction on Kagitingan Reef, as it had already been reclaimed by China.
In an apparent move to distance from a possible diplomatic protest against China, Roque reiterated that China committed not to build new facilities in other disputed reefs.
“When we invoke the good faith of China, it is against making further reclamations and not making further works on islands that it had already reclaimed,” Roque said.
“We will not make a big deal out of China’s latest activities in its artificial islands, Beijing would be crossing a red line if it carries out new reclamation activities in the contested waters,” he said.
“Whether we like it [or not], they intended to use them as military bases, so what do you want us to say? All we could do is to extract a promise from China not to reclaim any new artificial islands,” he said.
In the same press briefing, Roque said that former President Noynoy Aquino did not do anything to stop the militarization in the area.
“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything about these artificial islands, what do you want us to do? We cannot declare war. Not only is it illegal, but it is also it is impossible for us to declare war at this point,” he said.
A Chinese state-run China Central Television earlier released images of the Kagitingan Reef that showed an airbase and seaports indicating new military installations.
Roque said the recent development in the man-made island does not constitute a breach of Beijing’s commitment not to build new islands in the disputed sea, through which trillions of dollars worth of trade passes every year.