Philippines seeks multilateral approach to China missiles
Cayetano also strongly disputed criticisms that the Duterte administration was not doing enough to protest the deployment of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on Fiery Cross (Kagitingan), Subi (Zamora) and Mischief (Panganiban) reefs in the last few weeks.
Edd Gumban
Philippines seeks multilateral approach to China missiles
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 7, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is seeking a multilateral approach, including the involvement of the United States and other western powers, in confronting the worsening security situation in the South China Sea following China’s deployment of missiles on artificial islands in the disputed waters, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said yesterday.

Cayetano also strongly disputed criticisms that the Duterte administration was not doing enough to protest the deployment of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on Fiery Cross (Kagitingan), Subi (Zamora) and Mischief (Panganiban) reefs in the last few weeks.

“We are not ignoring the developments. What we’re saying is that (the situation in the South China Sea) cannot be resolved by the Philippines and China alone,” Cayetano told radio station dzBB in Filipino.

He said other claimants have their own installations in the South China Sea and “you have the West having their navies sail through the area.”

“All claimants (to the South China Sea), like Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, must also talk among themselves,” he added.

Just like in the peace and denuclearization talks between North Korea and South Korea, the western powers must be involved, according to Cayetano.

“When you ask China, they say the navies of the western powers are getting more and more aggressive so they need to protect their country. When you ask the western powers, they say they’re coming to protect us because China is becoming more aggressive,” he said, referring to the military exercises or show-of-force activities undertaken by the navies of the US and China in the disputed waters.

“We appreciate the aggressiveness of the West to protect us but you know, how do we get to the point of talking?” Cayetano asked.

Member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), most of which are also claimants to the resource-rich waters, are “caught between China and western powers,” according to the foreign affairs chief.

Apparently referring to the US, Cayetano, however, lamented that when the Philippines previously sought the intervention of its security allies as China was rushing its reclamation activities in the Philippine-claimed territories in the disputed waters, the US said it would not do anything as it does not involve itself in territorial disputes.

Cayetano is hoping that the Code of Conduct (COC) between the 10-member ASEAN and China on the South China Sea will be forged soon before tensions escalate.

“We’re the coordinator of the COC with China, so if we close this, we can discuss a lot with China, we can address this development,” he said.

The COC has been the subject of negotiations between the ASEAN and China for several years but progress has been slow. 

‘Alone’

 Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, said the Philippines should mobilize the international community and invoke its various security agreements with its allies to confront the increasing militarization of China in the South China Sea.

He said the country should maintain its “high moral and political ground” by invoking the ruling of the Hague-based Arbitral Tribunal upholding the Philippine case against China.

“Let’s conduct an inventory of our allies because China is big, rich and powerful but it is alone. And we’re supposed to be allied with the US based on the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty), VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) and EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) with the US,” Honasan said.

He added that ASEAN member-states should also put a united front against China’s continued militarization of the area.

International action, including a formal condemnation and call for demilitarization from the United Nations, should help “but there should be enforcing capability,” according to Honasan.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto lamented that China misled the country in building its artificial islands, saying the facilities will be primarily used to combat piracy and assist distressed seafarers, among other peaceful uses.

“But the reported installation of weapons in these islands seems to give credence to the global suspicion that its real aim was to build a string of military fortresses over the sovereignty claims of its peaceful neighbors,” Recto said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the government “must remain calculated with its actions in responding to this troubling move by China” while keeping in mind that it is still within the country’s interest to maintain good relations with Beijing.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the chamber should conduct an inquiry on China’s deployment of missiles in Philippine-claimed territories in South China Sea.

“The Senate foreign relations committee should first find out what really is happening,” Pimentel told reporters yesterday. 

Leni pushes diplomacy

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo yesterday expressed alarm over China’s reported deployment of missile systems even as she urged the Duterte government to take diplomatic action to protect the Philippines’ sovereign rights.

“We urge the administration to take immediate and appropriate actions, including the filing of a diplomatic protest, to protect what is rightfully owned by the Filipino people, in line with the ruling of the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal,” Robredo said, referring to the July 12, 2016 ruling that invalidated China’s excessive claims over the South China Sea.

Beijing, however, has refused to recognize the ruling.

Robredo said China’s increased militarization in the South China Sea is in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and only contributes to regional instability, compromises the country’s security and further curtail its sovereignty.

She said heightened tensions in the area will be to the detriment of all parties concerned.

“It is in the interest of all parties concerned to find a long-term solution to the ongoing impasse. It is critical for our government to work with our neighbors and friends who have a stake in the region to craft a just and peaceful agreement – taking into account international laws and respect for each nation’s sovereignty,” she said.

The South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) is a major passageway for ships from various countries conducting trade around the world, according to Robredo.

“This area should continue to serve as an open waterway for all countries, in accordance to international laws,” she said.

China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying neither confirmed nor denied the deployment of missiles.

“China’s peaceful construction in the Spratly archipelago, including the deployment of necessary national defense facilities, is aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty and security,” Hua said.

“Those who don’t intend to violate (this sovereignty) have no reason to worry,” she added. –  With Helen Flores

CHINA’S DEPLOYMENT OF MISSILES
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