MANILA- The presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea may be brought up when President Rodrigo Duterte visits Beijing later this month, a Palace official said Thursday.
This after Foreign Affairs Chief Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he filed a “salvo” of diplomatic notes to China over the presence of Chinese vessels near the island.
“Baka lumabas yun sa usapan. Baka naman sila na mismo sumagot dun kasi ni-raise na nga natin,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters during a Palace press briefing.
(It may be discussed but maybe China would respond since we have already raised the issue.)
“My educated guess is since we have already raised that, they (China) may respond to that during the bilateral talk,” he added.
Duterte is set to visit China for the 4th time later this month to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in China. He will have a bilateral meeting with Chinese leader XI Jinping.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines earlier said it has monitored more than 600 Chinese ships near Pag-asa Island since January of this year. Satellite images taken in 2018 and released earlier this year also showed that Chinese fishing vessels account for the largest number of ships operating in the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea.
Chinese vessels have also been spotted near Philippine-occupied Kota Island and Panata Island last March 28 according to an Inquirer.net report.
Panelo added that the government is still waiting for China’s response to Manila’s diplomatic protests.
“They would have to respond to our protest,” he said, noting that the government is expecting Beijing to respond within days.
Panelo said the Philippines is being “diplomatically kind” to China and is making a “studied response” with regards to its actions in the waterway given Beijing’s assistance to Manila.
“We're supposed to be friends and as the President says ‘friends don't do that’,” he said.
“If we're friends, then we should be friendly in terms of our actions,” he added.
Philippine authorities have raised concerns over China's activities in the South China Sea particularly militarization efforts, which Beijing has denied.
China has refused to recognize a 2016 ruling from a UN-backed tribunal which invalidated its sweeping 9-dash line claim over the disputed waters.