China not occupying new areas in disputed sea, Cayetano says

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 15 2017 09:15 PM

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday addressed a report claiming China has continued building new structures in the Spratlys and the Paracels this year.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) reported on Thursday that within 2017, China completed 72 acres or 290,000 square meters of permanent structures at the Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs in the Spratlys, and the North, Tree, and Triton Islands in the Paracels. 

These structures include underground storage areas and administrative buildings to large radar and sensor arrays, according to the AMTI report.

Speaking to reporters gathered for the DFA secretary's annual Christmas lunch in Pasay, Cayetano clarified the Philippines' position on the matter.

"We've never said tumigil lahat or walang gumagawa. What we are saying is, they are not occupying areas that are not habited, meaning, they are not occupying new areas," he said. 

Cayetano explained that in areas which had been previously settled in, occupying countries continue to build structures, which they claim are for defensive purposes, but are not occupying new areas.

The DFA secretary further explained President Duterte's strategy in dealing with the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea dispute.

"The intention of the president is to lower the temperature and go back to the COC (Code of Conduct)," he said.

"We might win international cases and have international support but China will continue building more structures.

"Have we lost land during the Duterte administration? No. But we have lost a lot of land during previous administrations."

Nevertheless, Cayetano intends to bring up the matter during the bilateral consultative mechanism with China early next year. 

He said he will also not shy away from discussing the issue should it be raised in multilateral talks.

Cayetano earlier said that the Philippines will not ignore China’s continuous militarization in the South China Sea.