Palace: Military flights over West Philippine Sea will continue despite China statement

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace: Military flights over West Philippine Sea will continue despite China statement
This June 18, 2020 photo shows Kalayaan in Palawan in the West Philippine Sea.
Municipal Government of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan, Philippines Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — The military's movements in the West Philippine Sea are in line with the Philippines' sovereign rights, Malacañang said Monday after Beijing had accused Manila of "illegal provocations" in the disputed area.

The Philippines has protested what it called the "illegal confiscation" of Filipino fishermen's equipment by the Chinese coast guard three months ago at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off the province of Zambales.

The Chinese foreign ministry responded by accusing the Philippines of violating China's sovereignty and security by sending a military aircraft into an airspace adjacent to Spratly Islands, which Beijing calls Nansha Islands.

China has also asked the Philippines to "immediately stop illegal provocations” and insisted that its actions in Panatag Shoal are lawful.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the military supply missions in Kalayaan, a fifth class town in the Spratlys and the overflight patrols in the Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc would continue.

"Well, perhaps that's the opinion of China. We will continue the bringing of supplies to Kalayaan and we will continue to have overflights in Bajo de Masinloc, and we maintain also that it’s part of our sovereignty or our sovereign rights," Roque said at a press briefing.  

While critics accuse President Rodrigo Duterte of being too soft on China's aggressive acts in the West Philippine Sea, Roque claimed the administration's policy on the maritime row has been consistent.

"The president has been consistent. He will not give even an inch of our national territory or sovereign rights to any other state," the Palace spokesman said.

"But (the government has also been consistent with its policy that) the unresolved issue about territory should not be a hindrance to pursue our diplomatic bilateral relations with China. We can pursue the things we can pursue like trade and investments," he added.

In 2016, a Hague-based arbitral court voided China's expansive claims in the South China Sea but the Chinese government refused to recognize the ruling.

During his fifth state of the nation address last month, Duterte admitted that he could not do much when it comes to the West Philippine Sea row.

"So what can we do? We have to go to war and I cannot afford it. Maybe some other president can but I cannot. Inutil ako diyan, sabihin ko sa inyo (I am useless on that, I tell you). And I'm willing to admit it: Talagang inutil ako diyan (I'm really useless on that)," he said.




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