MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has been consistent in his policy towards China but will not give “even an inch” of national territory to any state, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Li Jian accused the Philippines of committing “illegal provocative activities” by sending military aircraft close to the Spratly Islands.
“Consistent naman po ang ating Presidente (The President has always been consistent). He will not give even an inch of our national territory or sovereign rights to any other state,” Roque said in a virtual Palace briefing.
He acknowledged that the Philippines and China would still clash over the Hague-based arbitral court’s 2016 decision on the sea row but noted that this should not get in the way of their friendly ties.
“Hindi po magiging dahilan itong unresolved issue sa ating teritoryo bilang hadlang para isulong sa ating diplomatic bilateral relations with China iyong mga bagay na pupuwede namang isulong kagaya po ng kalakal at investments (Our unresolved issues concerning our territory will not prevent us from pushing for such things as trade and investment, in our diplomatic bilateral relations with China),” Roque said.
He said the Palace disagrees with China’s position that the Philippines has infringed on its security and sovereignty but respects it nonetheless.
“Siguro po opinyon ng Tsina iyan. Pero tayo po, patuloy po tayong nagpapalipad ng mga supplies papunta po sa Kalayaan, at patuloy po tayong nagpapalipad or nagkakaroon ng overflights diyan po sa Bajo de Masinloc (Perhaps that’s China’s opinion. But we continue to send aircraft carrying supplies to Kalayaan, and we continue to have overflights over Bajo de Masinloc) and we maintain also that it’s part of our sovereignty or our sovereign rights,” Roque said.
On Sunday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said provocations in the hotly disputed areas in the South China Sea are coming from the Chinese, who have illegally occupied some features within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Illegal provocations? That area is within our EEZ. Their so-called historical rights over an area enclosed by their nine-line doesn’t exist except in their imaginations,” Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.
He emphasized that Philippine aircraft and ships conducting patrol sorties are doing so within the country’s EEZ, just like Filipino fishermen going about with their lawful business.
“Our fishermen are within our EEZ and likewise our ships and planes conduct patrol sorties within our area,” Lorenzana said. “They (China) are the ones who have been doing provocations by illegally occupying some features within our EEZ. Hence they have no right to claim they are enforcing their laws.”
Last month, Roque said the Philippines would never abandon its arbitration victory against China.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier called on China to adhere to the sea ruling, saying the arbitration award in favor of the Philippines is “non-negotiable.”
On Thursday last week, the Department of Foreign Affairs filed a diplomatic protest against China over the illegal confiscation of some Filipino fishermen’s equipment at the Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag in Filipino) by the Chinese Coast Guard in May.
The Scarborough Shoal is a triangle-shaped coral reef situated 124 nautical miles off Zambales.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines’ petition, saying China has no legal basis to assert its supposedly historic rights over nearly the entire South China Sea.
China stood pat on its decision to reject the ruling, calling it “illegal and invalid.”
Apart from the Philippines and China, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam are also laying claim to parts of the South China Sea. (PNA)