PH could be 'aggressive' if China snubs diplomatic protest, says Panelo

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 17 2019 10:22 AM | Updated as of Apr 17 2019 05:30 PM

CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe

But the best way to go is still negotiations, the presidential spokesman said

MANILA - The Philippines could be more aggressive in its relations with China in relation to brewing conflicts in the South China Sea if Beijing does not respond affirmatively to its diplomatic protests, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Wednesday.

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Manila has protested the reported mass harvesting of giant clams by Chinese vessels in Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, said Panelo.

"Perhaps if they will not respond to that affirmatively, then we have to do something more aggressive, which may provoke armed hostilities," he told ANC's Early Edition.

Panelo, wary that armed actions might provoke retaliation from the other side, underscored, however, that "negotiation is the best avenue we can solve any conflict in any area in the South China Sea."

"I think the best is still negotiation. We can still talk this over. We can tell them: stop doing that, otherwise, we will be forced at the risk of an armed conflict even if minimal," he said.

Filipino fishermen told ABS-CBN News that the Chinese Coast Guard drives them away from the resource-rich Scarborough Shoal while wooden trawlers bearing China's flag extract giant clams there. 

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said the Philippines "will be taking legal action" against China over this.

Manila has also protested the reported presence of a large number of Chinese vessels around the Philippine-held Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island) in South China Sea.

Panelo said there was no response yet as of this time, but if these vessels stay, "we will wait for the decision of President the next best thing to do."