Palace: Chinese bombers a cause for concern but not a threat

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2018 01:24 PM | Updated as of May 21 2018 02:04 PM

One of China's artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea. Reuters/CSIS file photo

MANILA - Malacañang on Monday said it views China’s deployment of bombers in the disputed South China Sea with concern, but it noted that the Philippine government does not consider it as a threat for now.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing that Manila has taken note of the development and “we express our serious concern anew on its impact on constructive efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region.”

Roque, however, said it does not yet consider the deployment of bombers as a threat.

“Even if we don’t feel that China is a security threat to us, for as long as there are weapons there, there could be mistakes in the discharge of these weapons,” he said.

“Any threat of the use of force in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes which happens to be the sea lane where our oil supplies and bulk of our exports and imports pass through is a reason for concern to us.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday said it was "closely monitoring" the situation in South China Sea, after Beijing landed bombers on islands and reefs in the disputed region as part of a training exercise.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs, in close coordination with the other relevant departments and agencies, is closely monitoring developments in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea," the DFA said in a statement.

"We are taking the appropriate diplomatic action necessary to protect our claims and will continue to do so in the future. We reiterate our commitment to protect every single inch of our territory and areas which we have sovereign rights over," it added.

China's air force said Friday it conducted take-off and landing training on in the strategic waterway "to improve our ability to 'reach all territory, conduct strikes at any time and strike in all directions.'"

Roque stressed that Manila continues to address concerns on South China Sea diplomatically.

“It’s not as if we take it sitting down,” he said.

Asked whether President Duterte will heed former National Security Adviser’s recommendation that the National Security Council be convened in the wake of the deployment of the bomber, Roque said, “it’s the president’s call. And right now, the president does not see any immediate threat.”

“We don’t consider China to be a threat to our security right now because of our newfound friendship with China,” he added.

Duterte has maintained a soft stance on the Philippines' maritime dispute with China since assuming office.

He has repeatedly stressed that antagonizing China would not do Manila any good, as it cannot match the Asian superpower’s military power.

- with Reuters