MANILA - The Philippines and China are still friends despite Beijing's expansionist activities in disputed parts of the West Philippine Sea, a Palace official said Monday.
President Aquino will even join an event marking the friendship between Filipinos and Chinese, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said."
"The President will also attend the Filipino-Chinese community’s joint celebration of the 116th Philippine Independence Day and 13th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day, as organized by the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII). The President will deliver a speech, during which he will highlight the contributions of the Filipino-Chinese community not only to the growth of our economy but also to the enhancement of civic life,” Lacierda said.
"Our relationship with China is not solely dependent on our conflict with them in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea. Again, our relationship with China is multi-faceted, plus the fact that we have a number of Filipino-Chinese members in our country. We have always had very good relations with China in the other areas of exchange that we have: people-to-people, tourism, trade. So—and a number of us also have roots or have Chinese blood," he added.
Lacierda said reports that China has expanded its activities in other parts of the West Philippine Sea are not yet confirmed.
He was asked for comment on reports China is planning to build a military installation at Fiery Cross Reef or Kagitingan Reef.
He also dismissed as "speculative" a request for comment on the possibility China will establish an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the West Philippine Sea, similar to Beijing's zone in the East Sea.
"The report that China is building up on the Fiery Cross Reef was reported over the weekend in a Chinese—in a newspaper, so that still needs verification, so we won’t comment on that. On the ADIZ over South China Sea, that is purely speculative at this point, so—hypothetical at this point, so we don’t want to speculate."
The Philippines is sticking to diplomacy and refuses to be provoked into any action despite reports of China’s activities, according to the Palace.
Lacierda maintained the government’s stance not to respond to any provocation.
Last week, deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government will make no response to any provocation.
"We will continue to resort to the diplomatic track that we have resorted to and that particular track has been gaining approval from the international community. Certainly, we do not want to escalate any tensions in the South China Sea. That is not what we are there for and, therefore, the best thing that we can do is to resort to the diplomatic mechanism," Lacierda said.
"People seem to underestimate the fact of the power of the diplomatic track but there has been a growing approval from the international community. We believe that with the international community support, we can persuade China to act as a responsible member of the international community," he added. "And also China realizes the importance of being a member of the international community in good standing."
The Philippine has filed an arbitration case against China. Lacierda said the Philippines' move has gained the support of other nations.
China, however, has refused to subject itself to the arbitration proceedings.
Tensions in the South China Sea have been rising since the discovery of China's oil rig in the Paracel Islands, its reclamation at Mabini Reef, and Beijing's activities in Ayungin Shoal.
Over the years, China also laid claim to the Kalayaan island group and Scarborough Shoal.