MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines on Thursday maintained its ownership of Reed Bank, amid a reported call of China to all claimants of the Spratly Islands stop all forms of explorations in the South China Sea.
Malacañang said oil exploration should continue in non-disputed areas or areas owned by the Philippines, including Reed Bank.
“Number one, we will have to confer with the Department of Energy and with the Department of Foreign Affairs with respect to the disputed areas. With respect to the non-disputed areas, we have every reason to do our exploration there because it’s ours. There should be no issue as to our sovereign right to explore our own natural resources,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters in Malacañang.
The Philippines stood by its statements on the recent incidents in the South China Sea, even after a statement from the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, demanding that the Philippines “stop unilateral actions that damage China’s sovereignty and interests at sea… and stop issuing irresponsible comments that are inconsistent with facts.”
“Well, ‘yun ang kanilang pananaw. Ang aming pananaw, ang sinabi po ni Sec. Voltz Gazmin, it’s a very responsible statement. We believe that we are asserting only what we claim is ours in our sovereign capacity… Dapat po walang question sa Western Palawan, sa Reed Bank, ito po ay atin, kasi ito ay 80 nautical miles po from Palawan in contrast to them which is about over 400 or a little less than 500 nautical miles from them. So obviously ito po ay ating inaangkin noon pa and was never considered disputed,” Lacierda said.
Amid all these, the Philippines remains committed to having the issue resolved peacefully and diplomatically. Lacierda said the situation is not worsening as all claimants remain committed to a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
He said the Department of Foreign Affairs continue to be in touch with Chinese Embassy officials in Manila.
“What we believe and what we strongly would like to see is the peaceful resolution in this area. China obviously has their claimed of the 9-dash line. We obviously dispute that so we would rather have a peaceful dialogue be undertaken by the various claimants on the South China Sea, not just between the Philippines and China, but also the other claimants of the area, for instance Vietnam and the other countries,” Lacierda said.
The date for President Aquino’s state visit to China has not yet been finalized but Aquino is expected to take up the Spratlys issue with his Chinese counterparts.
“Well, again, we don’t have a firm schedule yet on China. The DFA would be handling that but definitely the President has been apprised of the situation and in the proper time, the President will relay to the Chinese officials, his counterpart, as to the conduct and attitude of the Philippines and the stand of the Philippines on that matter,” Lacierda said.