MANILA - The Philippine government continues to protest China's construction in the West Philippine Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Wednesday.
"Yung sinasabing pumapayag tayo mag-construct, hindi, we continue to protest. Walang pinag-usapan na okay lang na mag-construct kayo," Cayetano told radio DZMM.
(What they are saying that we are allowing China to construct in the West Philippine Sea, no, we continue to protest. There is no agreement that says they are allowed to construct there.)
In his third State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would not waver in defending the Philippines' interests in the South China Sea despite seeking closer ties with Beijing.
The West Philippine Sea is the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
"Our improved relationship with China does not mean we will waver to defend our interest in the West Philippine Sea," he said.
“Opening lines of communication and amicably managing differences have led to positive developments that include renewed access of Filipino fishermen in the areas in dispute in the Philippines—West Philippine Sea."
Majority or 73 percent of Filipinos believe that Duterte should assert Manila's rights to the West Philippine Sea, according to a Pulse Asia poll conducted from June 15 to 21 this year.
Meanwhile, a Social Weather Stations survey revealed that 4 out of 5 Filipinos think it is wrong that the government is “leaving China alone with its infrastructure and military presence” in its own territories.
In May, the government said it has taken "diplomatic actions" against China over its activities in the West Philippine Sea but did not elaborate.
Earlier this year, China was reported to have installed missile launch systems and landed bomber planes on islands within the disputed waters, drawing concern from the Philippines and the international community.
Cayetano, meanwhile, said the government will also not settle for less than 60 percent of ownership under a plan for joint development and exploration for oil and gas with China in the West Philippine Sea.
"We’re working on the details but ang masasabi ko lang sa publiko, pareho o mas maganda sa kontrata sa Malampaya, para walang masabi ang kritiko. So kung sa Malampaya 60-40, hindi tayo papayag na less than 60-40," he said.
(We’re working on the details but I can tell the public that we have the same or better contract than the Malampaya [Gas Field project], so the critics can't say anything. If the Malampaya contract is 60-40, we will not agree to less than 60-40.)
"But ang tanong ko nga, kukuha din naman tayo ng partner, ke Indonesian, Dutch, kukuha tayo ng partner to explore so anong mawawala that we do it with our neighbors?"
(But my question is, if we are going to get a partner--whether Indonesian, Dutch, we will still get a partner to explore--what will we lose if we do it with our neighbors?)
Philippines, Province of China?
Cayetano said no one is proposing that the Philippines should become a province of China in light of the red banners spotted in pedestrian overpasses earlier this month.
"Wala naman pong nagpo-propose niyan. Alam naman natin na ang Pangulo natin minsan sarcastic, or kasi pag pinundi mo sa isang issue na he’s doing his best, minsan napo-frustrate din at kung 'di magmura, will be very sarcastic," he said.
(Nobody is proposing that. We know that the President can sometimes be sarcastic if he's pressed on issues where he is doing his best. Sometimes he gets frustrated and if he doesn't cuss, he will be very sarcastic.)
"We want to be good neighbors with China, Japan, Korea, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). But definitely ‘yong sovereignty natin walang pag-uusapan, we will follow our interests."