Palace: China not a threat but bomber in South China Sea a cause for concern

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Palace: China not a threat but bomber in South China Sea a cause for concern
China's Air Force has deployed an H-6K bomber on one of its outposts in the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
Twitter screengrab / People's Daily China

MANILA, Philippines — Despite Beijing's deployment of a bomber on one of its outposts in the South China Sea, Malacañang maintained that China is not a threat to the country's security.

Last week, China's Peoples' Liberation Army Air Force announced that it has landed its first bomber on Woody Island, its largest outpost on the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said that President Rodrigo Duterte does not see the need to convene the National Security Council despite China's aggression in the contested waterway.

READ: China lands bombers on South China Sea isles

"The president does not see any immediate threat. As I said, we do not consider China to be a threat to our security right now because of our newfound friendship with China," Roque told reporters Monday.

The Philippine government, however, refuses to issue an independent statement calling out China as it only reiterated the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' statement on the South China Sea.

Roque added that releasing an independent statement expressing concern over China's militarization of the South China Sea would be unnecessary as the ASEAN had already agreed in a joint statement.

"That’s a common statement of ASEAN and we voted for the statement so that’s a collective stand of ASEAN and I think in dealing with China, it's best that we speak as one as ASEAN so that's why we are reiterating the ASEAN statement calling for non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea," Roque said.

The Philippines and China have, however, set up a bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea.

In February, the foreign ministers of ASEAN member states reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint and avoid actions that would further escalate tensions in the region.

The 10-member regional bloc, under the leadership of Singapore, issued the statement ahead of the start of negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

"We discussed the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region," Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in February.

RELATED: Philippines refuses to call out China amid bomber in South China Sea

On the other hand, Roque appears to have contradicted his own statement when he said that the Philippines does not see China as a threat but also expressed concern over Beijing's actions in the South China Sea.

"Even if we don’t feel that China is a security threat to us, for as long as their weapons are there, there could be a mistake of the discharge in these weapons and any threat of the use of force in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes which happens also to be the sea lane where our oil supply passes through and bulk of our exports and imports pass through is a reason for concern to us," the Malacañang spokesman said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said that diplomatic actions have been taken to address Beijing's deployment of bombers in the South China Sea.

The agency stressed its commitment to protect the country's territory and areas where the Philippines has sovereign rights.

"While appropriate language, whether expressions of condemnation or concern, over certain developments are clearly conveyed through diplomatic channels, it is not our policy to publicize every action taken by the Philippine Government whenever there are reported developments taking place in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea," the DFA said in a statement.

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