Malacañang supported the plan of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to file a diplomatic protest against China over the alleged firing of warning flares at a Philippine military aircraft patrolling the West Philippine Sea.
“If that’s true then we have to object to that. As the Secretary of Foreign Affairs says, we will have to file a diplomatic protest,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
On Tuesday, Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Reuben Basiao bared to a House panel that there have been six flare warnings against Philippine military aircraft this year.
Locsin, on his official Twitter account, said he will file a diplomatic protest against China when the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency confirms the report.
Panelo said Palace will adopt the stand of both Locsin and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who said China’s flares do not prevent their vessels and aircraft from patrolling.
Asked if he agreed with Basiao’s remark that China is seen as “the most aggressive” among the claimants in the South China Sea, Panelo noted the importance of practicing self-restraint.
“If you’re doing things that will aggravate the situation there, there is already a tension there,” he added.
“Precisely that is the common stand of the Asean members. That there should be an exercise of self-restraint among those who are claimants so that it will not aggravate the situation there,” he added.
Besides China, other countries with overlapping claims in the resource-rich South China Sea are the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.
On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won its arbitration case filed against China in 2013, nullifying China’s nine-dash line claims of nearly the entire South China Sea, including part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) found “no legal basis” for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line” but China refused to recognize this.
Leaders of Asean and China target to have completed a Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea by 2021 to provide a set of guidelines to follow to avoid any conflict in those waters. (PNA)