By Argyll Geducos
Malacañang is taking a stronger stance against China in the West Philippine Sea, telling Chinese vessels hanging around Philippine-occupied Kota and Panata islands to go away.
“They should [go away]. They have no business being there,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said following reports that local authorities have monitored a number of Chinese vessels, suspected as maritime militia, hanging around Kota and Panata islands in the disputed waters.
Panelo said the Philippines will not stay quiet if the country’s sovereignty is being infringed.
“While we remain friendly with respect to trade relations, we will always assert sovereignty when it is being impaired or assaulted,” he said.
“Oh, it is [an assault]. If they continue to be present in our territory then it is an assault to our sovereignty,” he added.
The Western Command in late March confirmed the presence of suspected Chinese maritime militia in Pag-asa Island and near the Kota and Panata islands.
In his Wednesday press briefing, Panelo said that while he has yet to get confirmation about the report, the Chinese should get out of Philippine territory.
He also assured that the government would be filing another diplomatic protest against China should they refuse to get out.
“[We are filing] because they cannot be intruding in our territorial property. [By filing,] they will know that we are against it. That we will not allow it. That we will not tolerate such presence in our territory,” Panelo said.
Only last week, President Duterte told China to lay off Pag-asa Island, also in the West Philippine Sea, saying the narrative will change once something bad happens to Filipinos there.
“I am trying to tell China: Yung Pag-asa [Island] is ours. We have been there [since] 1974. Kung inyo ‘yan, bakit hindi ninyo pinaalis kami (If that is yours then why haven’t you driven us out of there)?” he said late Thursday evening.
“So let us be friends but do not touch Pag-asa Island and the rest. Otherwise, things would be different. This is not a warning, this is just a word of advice to my friends kasi kaibigan tayo ng (because we are a friend of) China,” he added.
Duterte said he will not hesitate to shed blood if the Chinese would harm Filipinos in the Pag-asa Island.
“So nakikiusap ako (I am asking you). I will not plead or beg, but I am just telling you that lay off the Pag-asa because may mga sundalo ako diyan. ‘Pag ‘yan ang ginalaw ninyo, ibang istorya na ‘yan (I have soldiers there. If you harm them, then that is a different story now),” he said.
“’Di sabihin ko na yung mga sundalo ko (I will then tell my soldiers: ‘Prepare for a suicide mission.’ Wala naman talagang ano pa (There’s nothing else to do anymore),” he added.