Palace does 'not agree' that China is taking advantage of COVID-19 pandemic
The medical team sent by China was comprised of 10 infectious disease prevention and control, clinic treatment, and laboratory testing experts worked with the Department of Health for 15 days to "exchange medical treatment experiences with their Filipino counterparts."
Department of Foreign Affairs / Nilo Palaya

Palace does 'not agree' that China is taking advantage of COVID-19 pandemic

(Philstar.com) - April 28, 2020 - 6:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — Amid news of Chinese structures still being built in the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang on Tuesday said it disagreed with the notion that Beijing was using the smokescreen of the global pandemic to forward its goals in the disputed waters. 

In a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the administration would still defend its sovereign rights. 

"We do not agree with that conclusion," Roque said. "The current policy is we will defend our national territory and sovereign rights."

On April 23, he also said that the government "hoped" that Beijing would make good on its promise to cease its reclamation activities. 

READ: DFA welcomes Chinese donations, medical experts on COVID-19 With world busy fighting coronavirus, China quietly builds installations on Philippine-claimed reefs

Roque previously referred to China as the Philippines' BFF or best friend forever. 

China's state-run media agencies have reported that government-funded arms established research stations on Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) and Subi Reefs in Spratly Islands, both of which are in territories claimed by the Philippines. 

Article 2, Section of the nation's charter reads: "The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination."

'Leave China alone,' top diplomat says

Even Foreign Affairs Secretary, Teodoro Locsin, felt the need to speak up in defense of China, citing the medical supplies donated by the regional giant on his personal Twitter account, which he typically uses to release official statements. 

“Leave the Chinese embassy in Manila alone. It never made a connection between medical help and legal claim,” the country's top diplomat tweeted.

READ: Philippines is 'the lead in the South China Sea disputes,' Locsin claims

“China’s anti-COVID assistance has been impeccable and cannot be accused of being covert. Covid/covert. Get the play on words?” he added.

The pronouncements of Roque and Locsin come on the heels of two diplomatic protests filed against China for its vessel’s pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship and for its declaration of Philippine territory as part of Hainan province. 

Both instances are violations of international law as well as the country’s sovereignty.

'Mutual support'

In an earlier statement, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said that China and the Philippines had long been mutually supporting each other throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We will continue to help and support each other in the fight against COVID-19 so as to establish a solid partnership of mutual support between China and the Philippines," he said. 

READ: ‘China not using COVID aid to deflect sea issue’

The envoy did not mention Beijing's new structures in Philippine-claimed territories in his statement. 

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines and contended that there is no basis for Beijing’s nine-dash line claim, which covers a large part of the South China Sea, in international law—a ruling that China has refused to acknowledge.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said that he already brought up the arbitral ruling in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but also said later on that the Philippines cannot risk the possibility of war with China by forcing the issue. — Franco Luna

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PH-CHINA RELATIONS
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