MANILA- The Philippines disagrees with the United States' view that China is taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to bully other countries, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque opposed the claims of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who said that China was exploiting the world's focus on the pandemic with "provocative behavior" to erode autonomy in Hong Kong, exert military pressure on Taiwan and coerce neighbors in the South China Sea.
"We do not agree with that conclusion. Although the current policy is we will defend all our national territory and our sovereign rights," Roque said in a virtual press briefing.
The COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have originated in Wuhan City in China late last year.
Earlier this month, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over China's recent actions in the disputed South China Sea, calling these as "violations of international law and Philippine sovereignty."
Manila in 2016 won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which invalidated Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
China has refused to recognize the ruling, which was handed down at the start of President Rodrigo Duterte's presidency.
Malacañang, meanwhile, welcomed the suggestion of former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio for joint patrols by claimant countries Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines in their exclusive economic zones in the disputed waters to send a message of unity that China “cannot just pick on us one by one.”
"Although we do not agree po with the personal opinions of Justice Carpio on what China is doing, but the suggestion on joint patrols is well-taken," Roque said.
- with a report from Reuters