Uncoordinated passage of Chinese warships in Sibutu Strait ‘not an act of friendship’ — Palace

Uncoordinated passage of Chinese warships in Sibutu Strait �not an act of friendship�  � Palace
File photo shows Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo during a Palace press briefing.

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday expressed concern over the unannounced passage of Chinese warships through the country’s territorial waters, saying such move is not something a friend would do.

Two Chinese warships were spotted along the Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi in July, while three were seen this month—the latest in the series of incidents where Beijing vessels entered and sailed through the Philippine waters without any prior coordination with local authorities.

“We express concern with that kind of incident. Because if they keep on saying that we’re friends, I don’t think this is an act of friendship,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing.

In an interview on CNN Philippines early Thursday morning, Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the military's Western Mindanao Command chief, said the Chinese warships recently spotted were “not hostile” but their presence was not coordinated with the Philippine government.

Their passage cannot be also considered “innocent” because they were on a curved course, Sobejana was quoted in media reports as saying.

Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel, said he might raise the issue with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua during a “working dinner.”

He also said Malacañang is now waiting for the next move of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

“If there’s a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, we will file a diplomatic protest,” Panelo said.

Last week, Locsin said a diplomatic protest would be filed over the presence of Chinese warships and research vessels in the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier revealed that four Chinese warships have entered and sailed through the Sibutu Strait at least four times since February without informing local authorities.

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