Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday reiterated the Duterte administration’s “unwavering” commitment to protect the country’s claim in the disputed territories in the South China Sea, as he defended public silence when developments and issues surface on the sea lane.
A day after the 2nd meeting on the Philippine-China Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM) on South China Sea, he cited ongoing talks and continuous diplomatic actions being undertaken to protect the interests of the Philippines in the region.
“Just because we are not in an open shouting match with China, or arguing in public, doesn’t mean that the issues aren’t being dealt with decisively. On the contrary, we are not only exerting efforts but also getting things done,” Cayetano said.
Delegations from Manila and Beijing, led by DFA Undersecretary Enrique Manalo and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, met on Feb. 13 for the BCM.
In a separate press statement from the one jointly issued by the two states, the DFA said both sides expressed respective positions on the ongoing territorial disputes.
“While there are points of disagreement,” it said both delegations agreed “to cooperate and properly manage issues of mutual concern and preserve security and stability in the region.”
In a phone interview, Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Chito Sta. Romana said by bit, the country is indeed moving forward on the issue.
The envoy was initially asked why the country is not, at the very least, publicly speaking out against China’s continuing construction in its reclaimed area.
“We do it through diplomacy, that’s the reason,” he said, adding this type of issues are directly raised with the Chinese at fora such as the BCM and high-level discussions. “We find it [a] more effective form.”
For his part, Cayetano said “the Duterte administration is unwavering in its commitment to protect our country’s territorial claims and maritime entitlements.”
Further, he noted Manila is also of the position “that ongoing territorial disputes should be resolved in a manner consistent with the spirit of good neighborly relations and the 1982 UNCLOS.”
Mentioning “some positive developments” in the South China Sea, Cayetano said Filipino fishermen have access within the areas in dispute, together with “measures” put in place for all parties to protect the environment and marine ecosystem in the region.
Among others, he said there had been a “commitment by China and all parties not to build on uninhabited features in accordance with the Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea.”
“Let me note that our fishermen are back exercising their livelihood in Scarborough Shoal, and overall, the situation in the greater South China Sea has become more stable than in past years,” he said. (PNA)