Philippines acquiring technology to verify China missile deployment

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Philippines acquiring technology to verify China missile deployment
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government has not verified reports about China’s deployment of missiles in the South China Sea because it has no capability to do so.

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is set to acquire technology that will allow it to verify reports that China has installed missile systems in the disputed Spratly Islands group, Malacañang said yesterday. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government has not verified reports about China’s deployment of missiles in the South China Sea because it has no capability to do so. 

“I had a talk with the National Security Adviser (Hermogenes Esperon Jr.) and he told me that there’s a technology that we need (but) we still don’t have to be able to verify it for ourselves. I understand that we could get information from third party resources but that would not be first party verification,” Roque said at a press briefing. 

He could not provide details about the technology but revealed that acquisition was “forthcoming.” 

Last week, American network CNBC reported that China has installed anti-ship and ground-to-air defense systems on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, Zamora (Subi) Reef and Panganiban (Mischief) Reef – all within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). 

Some groups are worried that the placing of missiles in the disputed areas may affect peace and stability in the region. 

Malacañang has said it was concerned about the development and has vowed to use all diplomatic channels to address the issue. 

Asked how President Duterte reacted to the reported missile deployment, Roque said: “The President views it from an overall perspective. The islands have been there when we came in and it can’t be denied. Whether or not China will admit it, it will be used for military purposes.”

Duterte has been accused of being too soft on China, which has recently provided development and military assistance to the Philippines. Officials have denied the allegation, saying the President would not give up an inch of Philippine territory to foreigners. 

Roque echoed the President’s rants against the US, whom the President accused of not doing anything to stop China’s build-up and reclamation in the South China Sea. 

“The problem started when they allowed the construction of the islands to begin with. Why did other people not do anything while the islands were being constructed? Why did the United States not stop it if it did not want these islands?” the spokesman said. 

He explained that Malacañang would now have to deal with the existing realities, noting that Duterte earlier said “we are trying to do the best that we can under existing circumstances.”

“We are exploring all diplomatic options, which does not mean we are not doing anything,” Roque said.

He added that the Philippines, “like the rest of the world,” values freedom of navigation and that it has more interest in it because it is “covered by our EEZ.”

Roque believes the reported placing of missile systems in disputed areas did not constitute betrayal of trust. 

“I do not know why it’s even betrayal of trust. Why is it betrayal of trust?” he said. 

“This is not a new construction in the sense that what China promised is new reclamations. OK? Or artificial islands.”

Roque said the Senate is free to look into the alleged installation of missiles in Spratlys but noted that not all information can be shared with the public. Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV are calling for a probe on the alleged missile deployment. 

“That’s the duty of the Senate and we will not deprive the Senate of such function. But there are things that cannot be disclosed to the public. There are things covered by executive privilege and there are state secrets,” he stressed.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, along with security officials, is expected to brief senators next week on the implications of China’s deployment of missile systems in the Philippine-claimed territories.  –  With Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Helen Flores

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