MANILA — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. on Thursday told China to follow its obligations under international law and stressed the importance of gaining the country's trust by doing so.
Teodoro made the comment after being asked to react on the statement of Commodore Jay Tarriela, the Philippine Coast Guard's spokesperson on the West Philippine Sea, over the weekend.
Tarriela told China's defense minister that while they wanted to promote dialogue over confrontation on maritime issues, there was an "apparent disconnect" between its words and actions.
"As a stronger country, it has the bigger obligation to be magnanimous and show trust and to earn the trust of the Filipino people by conforming its activities to recognize norms of international law, which in our case is [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea], you know," Teodoro told Palace reporters.
"We are talking about the arbitral award. It has already been stated by our two past presidents that our rights and our territory are defined by UNCLOS and it has been stated too that this cannot be frittered away or bargain away by passages of administration," he added.
The defense chief added that China has to be transparent, since this is "the best way to build trust."
He recognized that Beijing is a "big market" to Manila, and that the United States even know it.
"Relations between two countries are not mono-dimensional; there are other relationship that we need to build up," he said.
"We live in a more conflicted world where we hope that even in the Ukraine, Russia problem our supply change are affected ‘no, being a net importer country. So, we really hope that the benefit of everybody as world citizens will out way other interests," he said.
Beijing claims almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade pass annually. Along with the Philippines, rival claimants are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
China has ignored a 2012 ruling from a UN-backed tribunal that its claim is without basis.
In recent years it has built artificial islands on reefs while constructing military facilities and airstrips.
Earlier this year, a Chinese vessel flashed a military-grade laser light at a Philippine Coast Guard vessel in the contested waters, temporarily blinding the latter's crew.
Security experts have long urged the government to prioritize the modernization of the Philippine Coast Guard given China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea.
Currently, the Philippine fleet has only three vessels that can conduct long-range patrols.
Video from PTV