"All I'm saying is that there is still no breach of the good faith obligation for as long as China has not embarked on new reclamations," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. Presidential Photo/Joey Dalumpines

Palace defends China's 'good faith' in South China Sea
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - January 9, 2018 - 12:48pm

MANILA, Philippines — Recent reports from Chinese state media that one of the Manila-claimed reefs in the Spratly Islands has been transformed into an airbase is "not news," Malacañang said Tuesday.

Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television had released aerial images of Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef show that the artificial island now functions as a fortified airbase with a hospital and military installations.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, however, said that China has not yet breached its "good faith commitment" not to reclaim new islands.

READ: Fiery Cross Reef transformed into Chinese airbase, says report

"From the very beginning China, we knew, was militarizing the area by reclaiming these areas and by using them as military bases so the fact that they are actually using it now as military bases, as far as I am concerned, is not new," Roque said in a televised press briefing.

Roque had earlier claimed the Palace “[doesn’t] know where these works are.”

He stressed that the Philippine government continues to rely on Beijing's "good faith" that it will not embark on new reclamation activities inside the country's exclusive economic zone.

Duterte's spokesman added that the Philippines has always been against the militarization of the disputed area.

DND: Philippines to file diplomatic protest

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, on the other hand, appears to have a different position on recent developments on Fiery Cross Reef.

The Defense chief warned that the Philippines will file a diplomatic protest against China if proven that they are militarizing the reclaimed islands.

Asked about Lorenzana's comment, Roque said that this would be up to the Department of Foreign Affairs. The DFA under the leadership of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has opted to focus on aspects of diplomatic ties with China outside the South China Sea dispute.

Citing the July 2016 ruling of the United Nations-back tribunal, Roque noted that only the Philippines has the right to make installations within the disputed features as part of its exclusive economic zone.

"I think that without doing anything, the tribunal already articulated the correct legal position of the country and the correct legal position that the Philippines is the coastal state that should exercise sovereign rights within its exclusive economic zone," Roque said.

Roque had cited the landmark tribunal award, which the Duterte administration repeatedly refused to bring up during talks with Beijing to settle the South China Sea dispute.

The Philippines, as ASEAN chair last year, made no mention of the tribunal award in all of its statements following the leaders' meetings in Manila in April and November.

RELATED: Philippines insists on dialogue with China amid completed airbase in South China Sea


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