No Philippine territory lost under Duterte — Cayetano

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
No Philippine territory lost under Duterte � Cayetano
Speaking to reporters prior to his departure for South Korea Friday night, Cayetano said China has committed not to build on any uninhabited feature in the disputed territories in the South China Sea.
Philstar.com / File Photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has not lost any part of its territory in the West Philippine Sea under the Duterte administration, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano insisted amid criticisms of the government’s supposed silence over continuing Chinese military buildup in the region.

Speaking to reporters prior to his departure for South Korea Friday night, Cayetano said China has committed not to build on any uninhabited feature in the disputed territories in the South China Sea.

“I reiterate: if anyone, any of the critics can show, that we lost one grain of sand or one square-inch of our territory or sovereign rights, I will not just resign – I will neither accept any appointment nor run (for office),” he said in Filipino.

“Are they willing to put their position and profession on the line? No. They lose nothing by inventing,” he added.

The secretary denied claims that the government has been silent on the developments in the disputed territories, particularly on the continuing Chinese buildup in their occupied islands.

“We’ve filed several notes,” he said, adding that they could not release details because the documents are classified. “But as I said, this does not all remain classified. At one point in time, it will be released.”

Cayetano maintained the Duterte administration’s approach is different from that of the previous administration.

“The strategy of the Aquino government in the past is to make noise, be loud to gather world support. What I am saying now is that we already have world support. We want to garner world support if we want to pressure China to do something,” he said.

“We do it quietly, effectively. If we have to make noise, we’ll file. But the shouting (type of diplomacy), that’s the old Aquino administration,” he added.

Cayetano claimed that such strategy resulted in standoff at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, eventually putting the area under Chinese control.

“I’ll make it very clear: as a policy, we do not want war,” he said. “In accordance with our Constitution, we do not consider war.”

Despite the difference in the approach, the secretary said the stand of the Philippines in the region has not changed: the government will not give up any part of its sovereign territory.

“What they want to do is to break it down into instances, and then to isolate in the South China Sea. What we want to do is to look at the bigger picture of the whole relationship,” he said.

Cayetano noted that China has been listening to the Philippines and there has been a big development in the relationship of the two.

“Now and then, there are incidents. That’s why we’re talking, and that’s why we’re developing new mechanisms like a hotline between our military, between our coast guard,” he added.

No protest

He also said the Philippines is not protesting China’s landing of a bomber on Woody Island in the Paracels.

“They say that the radius of the bombers, it can reach us. But the area where it landed is not our territory. How can we protest when it’s not in our territory? We can do that in the multilaterals. In multilateral, in ASEAN, we join our ASEAN brothers in a statement,” he said.

“But if you protest when it’s not your territory or you are not claiming it, it’s quite ridiculous,” he added.

Last month, state-run Chinese newspaper People’s Daily posted on its Twitter account a video of the landing.

Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said the video was taken on Woody Island, China’s largest base in Paracel Islands also being claimed by Vietnam.

AMTI said China has also built large hangars that could accommodate bombers like the H-6 series at its “Big 3” outposts in the Spratlys, comprising Philippine-claimed Zamora (Subi), Panganiban (Mischief), and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs.

According to Cayetano, the Philippines and China are currently working on a framework that would allow joint exploration for oil and gas in disputed territories.

“What’s happening is that we’re looking at what they want compared to what we want, and then how can we have a framework that will not affect the sovereign rights and territorial rights. In joint development, there are such models. The question is on the wording,” he said.

Cayetano claimed that some of those against joint development are obstructionists intent on undermining the Duterte administration.

“If we have joint development, two things will happen: one, Philippines will really progress because there will be inexpensive oil in the country,” he said. – With Evelyn Macairan, Michael Punongbayan, Jaime Laude

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