Cayetano assures no Chinese invasion of PH islet
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano broadly denied the allegation of Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, who disclosed of an “invasion of Philippine territory by China,” even as he begged off from releasing the facts so as not to hamper diplomatic talks.
Cayetano faced House reporters on Tuesday as the House of Representatives is set to tackle the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) proposed P19.57-billion budget in 2018.
Cayetano called on the “wrong premises” that gave way to “wrong conclusions” from some “patriots,” citing Associate Justice Carpio’s claim that China practically invaded Sandy Cay, a sandbar off the coast of Pag-asa island that had permanently risen above the waters.
In a statement, Carpio said the Chinese ships guarding Sandy Cay were “well within” the 22 km (12 nautical miles) territorial sea of Pag-asa, and thus, China could not claim “innocent passage” or invoke freedom of navigation.
“Sandy Cay is a Philippine land territory that is being seized (to put it mildly) or being invaded (to put it frankly) by China,” Carpio said.
Cayetano flatly denied Carpio’s claims, but would not give facts either to support his claim, expressing fear that taking up to the media maritime disputes would hamper diplomatic talks not just with China but with other claimants as well.
“The problem with some of the press statements that came out had wrong facts and wrong premises, wrong conclusion. One of them was saying may invasion of the sandbars sa Pag-asa (there was an invasion of the sanbars in Pag-asa). What does an invasion mean? It means inaagaw mo or tinatayuan ng ibang country (other countries are claiming or building up). That’s not true,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano said even National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon had denied Carpio’s claims.
Cayetano said the DFA is withholding all information on the situation in the South China Sea so as not to hamper talks with all the claimants.
“Apologies, I know it’s your job to ask for the facts. But it’s my job naman to keep the negotiations going and not to hamper it,” Cayetano said.
He assured that despite the lack of details to confirm nor deny the presence of Chinese ships in the disputed waters, the DFA is on top of the situation to make sure that “we’re not giving up a single inch of our territory.”
“Let me assure you that despite the lack of details, we will tell you if there’s an alarming situation, if the public is in danger, or if we are going to take or step up certain actions that needs the public’s support, or at the very least, knowledge,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano asked critics why they are keeping a watchful eye over China when other countries also have competing claims with the Philippines, noting that the law of the sea applies to all countries.
“This is not everyone against China. That’s why I ask critics, bakit China lang tinitingnan niyo (Why single out China)? Kami consistent kami… (Here, we are consistent) It’s not only with China that we have good relations,” Cayetano said.
“This is not everyone versus China kasi multiple claimants ito. There are features that we claim that is also being claimed by Malaysia and Vietnam. Di ba? (Isn’t it?) That’s why I ask the critics di ba? Bakit China din lang ang nakikita niyo? (Why you’re only seeing China?) Hindi ba patriotic kung pati yung iba? (Isn’t it patriotic if you also see others?)” Cayetano said.
“But kami, consistent kami (But we, we are consistent). We extend our hand of friendship and we ask for dialogue and we’re talking to everyone and I’m happy to report to you nga na it’s not only with China that we have very good relations,” he added.
Cayetano also said the presence of Chinese Navy and Coast Guard vessels as well as maritime militia in the northern part of Pag-asa Island, raised as a threat to maritime interests by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, had already been “resolved.” He denied to give details. JPV
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