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Philippines, China to continue ‘serious’ talks

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Philippines, China to continue âseriousâ talks
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella gave the assurance after his boss Alan Peter Cayetano announced the filing of a diplomatic protest against Beijing’s installation of a missile system in the Spratly Islands.
PPD / Toto Lozano, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines will “continue to engage in very serious conversations” with China over recent developments in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, a foreign affairs executive said yesterday.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella gave the assurance after his boss Alan Peter Cayetano announced the filing of a diplomatic protest against Beijing’s installation of a missile system in the Spratly Islands.

Abella said the government had raised concern over the safety of Filipinos traveling or fishing in waters being claimed by China but are within Philippine territory.

The Philippines has also raised environmental issues spawned by China’s building of artificial islands in disputed waters and in areas within the Philippines exclusive economic zone.

“The Philippines continues to engage in diplomatic actions towards our partner countries and especially in this case, those who are having claims in the West Philippine Sea, the South China Sea,” he said.

“We continue to ensure that our areas of cooperation especially with China are protected: safety of the seas, safety of travel, oil and gas, fisheries and environmental concerns. We continue to engage in diplomatic actions,” Abella added.

He claimed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is not telegraphing its punches to avoid diplomatic ruckus over the issue.

“Of course, we appreciate all these calls, we appreciate the calls of the Senate, we appreciate the calls of the critics, even the critics. But we’d like to continue to assure them that there is a lot of serious engagement going on,” he said when asked why the government had not been vocal against China’s military buildup in the region.

Abella’s statement came after the Philippine government protested the reported harassment by Chinese navy and coast guard of Filipino troops resupplying a Marine outpost at the Ayungin Shoal.

He also assured the public that the DFA is firmly but carefully dealing with recent developments.

“Like I said, there are certain matters that are quite classified, so rest assured we continue to encourage the public, to rest assured na hindi po pabaya ang gobyerno (the government is not remiss in its duty),” Abella said.

Last Thursday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President – as chief architect of foreign policy – has given concerned officials instructions on how to deal with the situation.

“The President, who is the chief architect of the nation’s foreign policy, will not sit on our rights and will never give away even an inch of territory,” Roque said, adding that the administration has prudently addressed the matter diplomatically.

“Indeed, we will resort to all diplomatic initiatives when warranted but without fanfare,” Roque said.

Early this year, Beijing deployed surface-to-air missiles, jamming equipment and military transport aircraft to Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef and Zamora (Subi) Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

The landing of a nuclear-capable Chinese bomber on Woody Island in Paracel Island had also caused alarm in the region. Vietnam protested the landing, calling it a violation of its sovereignty and demanded Beijing remove the military equipment.

Related video:

ALAN PETER CAYETANO DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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