By Francis Wakefield
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said if there is someone who is stirring up trouble in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) it is the Chinese, with their aggressive island building and militarizing artificial islands.
Lorenzana issued the statement after a Chinese official warned the United States and other countries against creating trouble in the West Philippine Sea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said it is China’s “principled position” that non-regional actors like the US refrain from stirring up trouble in the South China Sea.
Kang was reacting to reports that the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp which participated in the recent Balikatan 2019 sailed near the Scarborough Shoal.
Lorenzana said he is also standing by Malacañang statement that the government is not taking s step back in asserting the country’s rights over the Spratlys, reminding China that the Philippines won the arbitral ruling in 2016, after China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared the Spratlys, which China calls the Nansha Islands, to be part of Chinese territory.
Lorenzana said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the Chinese have been fishing in those areas for a long time and, therefore, it is theirs.
“(But) he failed to mention that those areas were also the traditional fishing grounds of Filipinos since time immemorial,” Lorenzana said.
On the Spratlys, Lorenzana said the country has occupied nine islands since the 60s and has been in possession of them since.
“The Chinese came recently and turned reefs into artificial islands,” he said.
In an earlier statement Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo, said they have been informed of the recent statement of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the issue of the disputed areas at the West Philippine Sea.
“While we concur with the Chinese official’s statement that the dispute can be best threshed out through peaceful negotiation and consultation between the two countries just as it will strengthen the Philippines-China relationship towards a solid partnership beneficial to Filipino and Chinese communities, the arbitral ruling however has already been rendered and we remain steadfast in maintaining our claims with respect to our territory and exclusive economic zones pursuant not only to the said arbitral judgment based on accepted principles of public international law but consistent with the directives of our Constitution and the aspirations of the Filipino people,” Panelo said.