MANILA - The Philippines is calling on China to de-escalate tensions in the South China Sea after Beijing slammed the door on a proposal for all claimant countries to halt provocative actions in the disputed territories.
Speaking to ANC's Headstart, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said the Philippine government is committed to pursue diplomatic, legal and political options to ensure continuing peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea.
This is the reason why the country opted to present its case before a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal.
"What we would like to see is a de-escalation of tension and we don't want to engage in dialogue that will not produce such outcome...We continue to hope and expect that they will not perform provocative actions," he said in the interview.
Coloma said there has been significant progress and major support from other countries to the call for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
He also said the United States is fulfilling its commitments as far as the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement and the principles of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) are concerned.
The Palace spokesman said it is inappropriate for him to comment on the deployment of the USS George Washington, a US Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, to Hong Kong.
"It is their call on how to deploy their assets in the region....It is not appropriate for me to speak for the actions of the US. Our concern is the stability and the peace within our scope of jurisdiction," he said.
However, he added: "We hope our allies will do what they said will do and will fulfill their commitments in the appropriate time and when actually needed."
China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that China had a right to do what it wanted on its islands in the South China Sea as they were Chinese territory, and criticized the Philippines for what it called Manila's illegal occupation of some of the islands and construction work there.
"On the one hand, the Philippines keep making further provocative moves, and one the other hand makes thoughtless remarks about China's appropriate moves within the scope of our sovereignty. This is totally unreasonable," she told a daily news briefing.
Earlier on Monday, the Philippines said that China's "expansion agenda" in the disputed South China Sea threatened security and stability in the region, calling on all claimant states to halt construction activities that may raise tensions.
Albert del Rosario, foreign affairs secretary, said he supported U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Russel's proposal for China and Southeast Asian states to get together for dialogue.
Del Rosario said China and other claimant states have been rushing construction activities in their respective claimed territories to expand, citing works in Fiery Cross Reef, Johnson South Reef, Gaven Reef, and Cuarteron Reef.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, believed to have huge oil-and-gas deposits and rich in fishery resources. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims over the sea where about $5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year.
Del Rosario said Chinese construction in the Spratlys was an attempt to alter the character of the features, converting reefs into islands to be able to increase maritime entitlements. With a report from Reuters