Malacañang reiterated yesterday that the Philippine government will continue to rely on China’s good faith and insisted that the Asian giant has not made any new reclamation in disputed areas in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
Speaking at a press briefing, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said there was nothing new with the published report of a national daily (not The Manila Bulletin) that China allegedly almost finished its militarization of the artificial islands in the disputed waters.
Roque referred to the report and the photographs to support it as supposed activities that happening even before President Duterte took office.
“Those islands were reclaimed during even the time of the former administration. They were completed, in fact, during the time of the previous administration. And I think, whether or not we like it, they intended to use them as military bases,” Roque said.
“Our position is: Anything found in those islands were already there when the President took over. And let’s not talk about militarization that happened under the Duterte administration, if there is such a militarization which China denies,” he added.
He said the government cannot do anything about China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea except to rely on China’s promise that they will not reclaim anymore new artificial islands in the disputed waters.
“So what do you want us to say? All that we could do is to extract a promise from China not to reclaim any new artificial islands,” he said.
“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything about these artificial islands, what do you want us to do? We cannot declare war. Not only is it illegal, but it is also because it is impossible for us to declare war at this point. If you have suggestions on what to do, let me know,” he added.
He also thinks that China has not curtailed freedom of navigation in the disputed waters despite China’s weapons in the reclaimed islands. He added that it might have really been China’s intention to use or to station military hardware even before the entry of the Duterte administration.
“No new reclamations. No new artificial islands,” he said.
Meanwhile, Roque said that the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III must have already filed a petition when it became obvious that the islands would be used as military bases.
“I think the previous administration must have filed also a protest when it became apparent that they were going to be used as military bases,” Roque said.
“What can we do? Right now, the position of the President is maintain close ties so they wouldn’t have any reason to use those arms in those islands,” he added.
“We expect that China, being not just a member of the United Nations but also a permanent member of the Security Council, will adhere to the prohibition on the use of force,” he said.
Working with China
Meanwhile, the Philippines is working closely with China to combat drug trafficking amid reports Beijing remained the top source of illegal drugs smuggled into the country.
Roque said the two countries forged a cooperation agreement that involves sharing of intelligence and technology to fight the narcotics trade.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Protocol on Cooperation was signed between the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Narcotics Control Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security of China, Roque said.
“The MOU stipulates both countries to enhance their exchange of intelligence know-how and technology sharing on fighting drug crimes, preventive education and rehabilitation facilities,” he said.
“Let me point out that the 6.4-billion shabu seized, was because of information given by Chinese drug agencies,” he added.
PDEA Spokesman Derrick Carreon reportedly confirmed that China is the number one source of illegal drugs smuggled into the country. The Mexican drug syndicates have also started to smuggle drugs into the country through mail, according to Carreon. (With a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling)