Philippines to raise militarization of Fiery Cross Reef with China in February


Posted at Jan 12 2018 06:08 PM

MANILA - Manila will raise with Beijing Chinese construction at the disputed South China Sea when the two sides meet anew in a bilateral meeting in February, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday.

"Before, sigawan sa media. Ngayon may venue kami na pag-usapan kung paano, and so far, hindi pa tayo 100 hundred (percent) but we have done much better than the past administration in protecting and stopping from getting more of the areas that should be preserved," Cayetano told reporters.

On Monday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines would file a diplomatic protest against China should it be proven that Beijing had built military facilities on the Fiery Cross Reef.

But Cayetano dismissed the possibility of filing a protest and said the Philippines would address the issue using "proper diplomatic actions." 

Cayetano also downplayed reports that the Chinese have been trying to install nuclear facilities on the disputed island, calling this "speculative." 

But, he said, the country would assert the Philippine Constitution's prohibition against nuclear weapons if the report is proven true. 

On Tuesday, Lorenzana said Manila would start constructing facilities for Filipino fishermen on a Philippine-held island in the Spratlys (Kalayaan Group of Islands).

Last year, Beijing and Manila forged an agreement to resolve long-standing territorial disputes in the South China Sea through a Bilateral Consultation Mechanism after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping agreed "not to waste lives" over the issue. 

The Philippines and China have seen warming ties since Duterte became President, as the administration took a more diplomatic approach in resolving the sea dispute. 

This even as China ramped up militarization and island-building activities in the contested waters, ignoring the Philippines' landmark July 2016 victory before an international arbitral tribunal that invalidated Beijing's nine-dash line claim over nearly all of the waters. 

-- report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News.