MANILA - Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday scored critics of the presence of Chinese vessels in the South China Sea but were not calling out American ships in the disputed waters as well.
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano raised alarm over reports Chinese navy and coast guard vessels were seen north of Pag-asa Island, the largest Filipino-occupied area in the Spratlys.
Cayetano said the matter had been “settled” after the Philippines communicated with China.
“Let me ask this: how many times have you asked me, bakit maraming American ship dun? You’ve never asked me that. Why? Because ang tingin nyo, kaalyado natin ang US kalaban natin ang China,” he told reporters.
(Let me ask this:how many times have you asked me, why are American ships there? You've never asked me that. Why? Because you think the US is an ally and China is an enemy.)
“I’m telling you now. Ally natin ang US, hindi natin kaaway and China.”
(I'm telling you now. The US is our ally, China is not our enemy.)
Under President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines has sought what he called an “independent” foreign policy that began with some sharp rhetoric against then US President Barrack Obama while at the same time, warming up to China.
Duterte also set aside the Philippines’ landmark victory before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, which rejected the basis of Beijing’s expansive claims over the South China Sea.
At last month’s meeting of regional ministers here, Cayetano claimed land reclamation by China in the disputed areas had stopped.
An initial draft of the ministers’ joint communique prepared by the Philippines skipped any mention of China’s land reclamation and militarization.
They were eventually included in the final document signed by ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a US think tank, later produced new satellite images showing China’s continued activities on the disputed Paracel Islands.
“You have to realize that their reason for being is to pursue the interest of the American people. So tayo we have to pursue Philippine interest. So kung merong intel, hindi ba natin kailangan i-verify?” Cayetano said.
(We have to pursue Philippine interest. So if I have intelligence, shouldn't we have it verified.)