MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino on Thursday called on China to pull out all its ships from Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as he assailed Beijing for asking the Philippines to stop making provocative statements while itself continuing to talk.
“It’s not clear to me what provocative statements the Philippines or Filipino officials have made. But we know that the other side has been saying a lot. So maybe they should read first what have been written on their end and with all due respect, maybe they can balance that with reality,” Aquino said yesterday.
Malacañang also said that the redeployment of ships to Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, would depend on the weather.
“There are many schools of thought on how to handle (or) how to deal with the Chinese. So we will be getting, in effect, a discussion on the opposite points of view on what is the best approach to settle this issue,” Aquino noted.
As this developed, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) summoned on Wednesday China’s top diplomat in the Philippines and gave her a note verbale protesting Beijng’s establishment of a new “prefectural-level” city of Sansha to administer three disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea and future development of the islands.
“The DFA sent a note verbale dated 28 June 2012 and handed this to Ambassador Ma yesterday, protesting the establishment of Sansha City as the extent of the jurisdiction of the city violates Philippine territorial sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratlys) and Bajo de Masinloc and infringes on Philippine sovereign rights over the waters and continental shelf of the West Philippine Sea,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said.
He pointed out “it was a diplomatic protest” since the declaration of the establishment of Sansha City contradicts the spirit of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the non-aggression accord in 2002.
A senior security official also noted that China’s latest move showed that it has no respect towards its neighbors when it comes to peacefully settling territorial disputes in the region.
“With the way Beijing is behaving, it only showed that they don’t have any respect towards its neighbors,” the security official, who asked not be named, said.
Contrary to Beijing’s claim that the Philippines is plotting to further increase the tension in the region, its present actions to bolster its territorial claim of the entire South China Sea showed otherwise, the security official said.
Earlier, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Chinese officials and the state media were the ones who should be careful about issuing statements.
“Can I say to the Chinese ‘xiao xin yi dian.’ Be a little careful about your statements,” Lacierda said in reaction to a commentary in the People’s Daily of China, which admonished the Philippine government for its plan to ask the United States to deploy spy planes over the West Philippine Sea to help monitor the country’s territorial waters.
Lacierda stressed the Philippines has the right to explore all options in safeguarding its territorial waters, including seeking help from the US.
He added that the request should be viewed in the context of the defense cooperation between the Philippines and the US.
“So there’s no issue to us. We do not view it as a provocative statement,” Lacierda said. “And as the President said, by no stretch of the imagination can you consider the Philippines as an aggressor.”
Meanwhile, Kalayaan, Palawan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon said his civilian constituents in the Spratly region are not disturbed by China’s current aggression.
“We are not disturbed at all,” Bito-onon said, adding that aside from the Philippines, China has also to deal with other Spratlys claimant countries if Beijing so decides to settle the territorial dispute by force.
Western Command (Wescom) commander Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban also vowed that they would defend at all costs Kalayaan municipality.
“We will keep on doing our duty, prepare for any contingency and let our leaders do the high level solutions. Kalayaan municipality is ours. We will defend it,” Sabban said.
Wescom, a composite military unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has operational jurisdictions over the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and has forward troops deployed in the region.
The Philippines and China are currently locked in a territorial dispute not only in Panatag Shoal but also in the Spratly region, which is also being claimed in whole or in part by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.
The Spratly archipelago is a chain of islets, reefs, atolls and sand bars straddling the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in mineral and fuel deposits.
Panatag Shoal is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales Province and is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.
China stands on a historical claim while the Philippines has taken the view that Beijing’s claim is not supported by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) - With Pia Lee-Brago, Jaime Laude, AP