MANILA (UPDATE) - Malacañang on Monday sought to allay concerns that the Philippines was just idly standing by as China makes improvements in its artificial islands in the South China Sea, the latest of which was the reported installation of missiles in three of its outposts in the area.
Critics have been calling out the Duterte administration for supposedly going soft on China amid the reported installation of missiles in three reefs in the Spratlys archipelago, but Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government is exploring all diplomatic options to address the situation.
He also assured the Philippines would not be in a vulnerable situation given Manila and Beijing’s newfound friendship.
“I was from the very beginning saying that we were concerned. But you can’t ignore the fact that because of very good relations, we can be confident that China as a country does not view us as a threat and there is no reason why assuming they have missiles that they can use, they will use it on us,” Roque said in a press briefing.
Roque said this after Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate took exception to his earlier statement where he said “we are confident that those missiles are not directed at us."
Beijing already confirmed that it has installed missiles in the Spratly islands but maintained that the move "targets no one."
The Chinese army installed anti-ship and air-to-air defenses on outposts also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines over the last 30 days, American television network CNBC reported Wednesday, citing sources close to United States intelligence.
The new Chinese missiles were reportedly deployed on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef, according to CNBC.
PH HAS NO TECH TO VERIFY MISSILES
Meanwhile, Roque said the Philippines has no capability to independently verify the existence of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its outposts in the South China Sea.
Roque said he was told by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that the Philippines lacks the equipment to independently verify the installation of the missiles, first reported by US media.
“I had a talk with the national security adviser and he told me that there’s a tech we need that we still don’t have for us to verify it for ourselves,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
“I understand we can get info from third party sources but that is not first party verification.”
Roque added the Philippines is now in the process of acquiring this technology. ABS-CBN News has sought clarification from Esperon on what technology Roque was referring to, but he has yet to respond as of posting time.
CARPIO: CHINA’S XI BROKE PROMISE
Analysts have said the installation of missiles in the Spratly islands threatens the Philippines' international access in the South China Sea.
Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio also believes Chinese President Xi Jinping broke a 2015 promise not to militarize its artificial islands in the South China Sea.
In 2015, Reuters reported that Xi during a meeting with then US President Barack Obama denied that China was militarizing the islands.
"China has just broken that promise by installing long-range anti-ship cruise and anti-aircraft missiles on these artificial islands," Carpio said.
"Filipinos must judge China by its actions, not by its promises of friendship to the Philippines," he added.